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Commissioner Harris Speech at Centenary Commemoration in Gresham Hotel on 24/5/22

Commissioner Harris Speech at Centenary Commemoration in Gresham Hotel on 24/5/22

“Has An Garda Síochána lived up to the ideals of those who met in this hotel 100 years ago?”

Ministers, Colleagues, Invited Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honoured to welcome you all to this symbolic location to mark what is a very special occasion for An Garda Síochána.

We come together this evening to commemorate our colleagues who came before us, established our service and committed themselves to serving communities over the course of the past century.

We especially remember those who have passed on, in particular those who have died in the execution of their duty and whose valiant efforts remain with us always.

It was here in the Gresham Hotel on February 9th 1922 that Ireland’s National Policing and Security Service was formed at the inaugural meeting of its founding committee.

In its transition from the RIC and to what later became An Garda Síochána, the formation of the Civic Guard that night, paved way for stability in Ireland and the establishment of the nation’s unarmed police service.

By that September, and following the passing of the Constabulary (Ireland) Act in Parliament, members of the new police service began arriving in cities, towns and villages to begin working in and with communities.

In the century since, thousands of people have to come to dedicate their working lives as Gardaí to protect the people of Ireland.

Today, there are over 14,000 highly trained Gardaí working nationwide.

The work that is undertaken by Gardaí each day is focused on the safety of the people we proudly serve.

You will see in the foreword of tonight’s booklet that each of you will have received on arrival this evening, a seminal quote from our very first Garda Commissioner, Michael Staines who was present on February 9th a century ago.

It is these words that encapsulate the mission that continues to be at the very centre of all that we do as Gardaí.

We are as much committed to this now, as our founding members were then - to succeed not by force of arms or numbers, but on our moral authority as servants of the people.

While our overarching mission has been a constant - so much else has changed about the work of Gardaí since those very first weeks and months of our organisation.

The breadth of duties has shifted considerably.

Our responsibilities now extend into many areas – nationally and internationally.

As Ireland has changed, so too has An Garda Síochána.

We are now an organisation working across specialist and dedicated units in areas of priority like drugs and organised crime, roads policing, and domestic and sexual abuse.

We also continue to put in place major ICT infrastructure suitable for the modern day.

We are introducing a new operating model to provide more localised services.

Even how we look is changing with the forthcoming introduction of a new, modern uniform.

Through the decades, Gardaí have prevented and detected significant amounts of crime.

We are having an impact on targeting and disrupting Organised Crime Groups – an area where we have recently seen considerable progress.

There have been incidents of crime that have shocked and dismayed during the past century.

As a police service we have encountered and responded to deeply unsettling periods in Ireland’s past.

Through the decades, members of An Garda Síochána have willingly faced danger to protect people’s safety.

That fact is sadly made clear when we think of our 89 Garda colleagues killed in the execution of their duty, who we remembered at our Memorial Service on Saturday last, and we also remember all those injured in the course of their duties.

Despite all of this, we continue to strengthen our service based on our strong tradition of policing by consent and in partnership with people and communities.

The development of community based policing in Ireland over the past century has played an integral part in how we operate today.

An Garda Síochána is also unique in that we have a dual mandate – the national police service and the national security service.

By its nature, the work that has been done by the security side of the organisation cannot often be discussed in detail.

But what has been achieved in countering the violent threat to this State and others from terrorist organisations is remarkable.

The work of An Garda Síochána, in partnership with other law enforcement agencies and security services, in countering these threats is one of the organisation’s greatest achievements over the last century.

As society has evolved, it is important that we also do so.

Over 11,000 people have applied as part of the recent recruitment campaign to become a member of An Garda Síochána.

It is encouraging that so many people are prepared to step up to protect and support communities.

About 40% of applicants are women and there has been an increase in numbers applying across a range of ethnic backgrounds.

We are passionate about delivering a policing service that represents every community and so this is a positive indication.

We now have over 3,300 Garda staff providing a range of critical functions to support policing delivery including IT systems, financial management, crime analysis, legal advice, HR and health and wellbeing services. Their input and insights have been invaluable in the development of the organisation into a modern police service.

In addition, we have been fortunate to have so many Garda Reserves assist us with our service delivery. Garda Reserves give of their free time to help us provide a policing service. They bring the value of their own personal and professional experiences to the organisation, which is of immense benefit to us.

While we celebrate all the great many things that An Garda Síochána has achieved over the past 100 years and the benefits to Irish society, we must also reflect this evening on the times we did not meet our own high standards.

The evolution of our organisation over the past century has not been without its difficulties.

As in any human endeavour, we have encountered many challenges through our history.
There were times when we let individuals and communities down.

Times when we should have done more, and, should have done better.

For all those times, I want to apologise to those that we failed.

An Garda Síochána is strongly focused on human rights and ensuring the human rights of every individual we interact with.

We are more aware of the vulnerabilities of individuals.

We have put in place measures to protect our own personnel from corruption, and to tackle corruption and malpractice if or when it happens.

And we encourage our people to speak up if they see an issue so that concerns can be dealt with and dealt with early.

But we can’t and won’t be complacent.

Every day we must work hard to make certain that we follow in the footsteps of all the brave members of An Garda Síochána who dedicated their working lives and sacrificed so much to protect the public with dignity and honour.

Those who were only ever motivated to work to the highest standards.

That is the real An Garda Síochána.

That is why our level of trust among the public is so high.

It is why we are regarded as a beacon of community policing, and why police services from around the world come to learn from us.

It is because of those dedicated Guardians of the Peace.

They are the best of us.

They are the vast, vast majority of us in An Garda Síochána who have, and continue to be, extraordinarily proud of the privilege it is to wear this uniform and represent this great organisation.

This evening’s event provides us with a meaningful opportunity to reflect on the past, assess the present, and consider the future role of An Garda Síochána in keeping the people of Ireland safe.

I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss further in-depth with our panel a little later but for now I will conclude by saying –

In 1922 and the immediate years that followed, Gardaí built an organisation that is set on a solid foundation.

It is our task 100 years on, to maintain the community-focus that is the bedrock of how we police, and we must continue to modernise to ensure we can deliver a policing service the country and all of us can be proud of.

Thank you".

Link to Facebook video that was recorded live on the 24/5/22 at the Gresham Hotel

Link to YouTube video

Centenary Booklet 1922 - 2022 English

Centenary Booklet 1922 - 2022 Irish