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Speeches

Scott Medal Ceremony

Dublin Castle

Friday, September 24th 2021

Minister, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen

Today we come here to honour 15 members of An Garda Síochána who demonstrated their great courage and bravery.

And it is my proud privilege to award the Scott Medal to each of these Gardaí.

I am especially glad to see those of you who could join us to recognise you in person, and there are those we honour today, who are sadly departed but we must never forget. And I am very pleased to also welcome the family of Private Patrick Kelly and Mr. Don Tidey.

I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of the families who are here with us – for they share a special part of these awards.

It is you who has been there to support them on the most demanding days in their career in An Garda Síochána.

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Historically, policing is known to be a challenging profession.

Our most basic duties and responsibilities allow society to live in safety, and free from violence and crime.

This work can often be silent and go by unheralded.

Then occasionally it requires Gardaí to make difficult life or death decisions in a split second, and put themselves directly in harm’s way to protect others.

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Our organsiation is made up of exceptionally motivated and competent individuals at all ranks.

And that is why you could be counted on in December 1983.

When each of you were called upon at a time of danger, you stepped up and responded.

It has been said that courage is not the absence of fear but action in the face of it.

And I am strongly convinced that this is intrinsically linked to a person’s sense of duty.

It is likely that this resilience is one of the things that motivated you to join An Garda Síochána all those years ago.

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The obvious danger and complexities involved in the operation at Dromcroman Wood in mid-December 1983 cannot be overstated.

You were involved in a heavy exchange of gunfire and were directly shot at.

Exposed to terrifying situations involving very dangerous armed suspects.

And faced enormous personal risk to life in the execution of your duties to rescue Mr. Don Tidey who had been kidnapped some 23 days previously.

We sadly know of the real extent of this risk through the tragic death of Garda Gary Sheehan.

Garda Sheehan made the ultimate sacrifice of giving his life in the line of duty to ensure that Mr. Tidey was brought to safety from captivity that day.

So while one family were given the safe return of their loved one, another was torn apart.

A very young, new recruit who followed both his father and grandfather in their service to the State through An Garda Síochána.

Garda Sheehan had been in his career just three months before he was needlessly killed.

And that is very hard to comprehend.

We remember too, Private Patrick Kelly who also lost his life during this An Garda Síochána and Defence Forces joint operation.

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In all of your actions during this search operation you strove to protect the life of Mr. Don Tidey and the lives of your fellow Gardaí.

Each one of you demonstrated outstanding bravery and physical courage.

And both bravery and courage involve so much more than we can know.

Yes, it is knowingly facing danger, but it is also knowing when and how to act to deliver a positive policing and societal outcome.

And the dedication to duty and bravery you demonstrated on 16 December 1983 remains an example to all of us who continue to serve.

And that kind of skill is required in our work today more than ever.

And on behalf of An Garda Síochána, I wish to express my deepest gratitude to you all for your service.

Thank you.

Criminal Assets Bureau 25th Anniversary

Friday, 15th October 2021

 

Minister, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

 Good morning everyone.

And thank you for your presence here today as we mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Criminal Assets Bureau.

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In June 1996 very traumatic and tragic events occurred which ultimately led to the creation of the Bureau on this day in 1996.

Our dear colleague, Detective Garda Jerry McCabe was callously murdered in the execution of his duty.

A crime of such gravity that it is as clear in the public consciousness now as it was in the summer of 1996.

A few days later the brutal killing of journalist, Veronica Guerin is a seminal moment in Ireland’s response to organized crime and terrorist groups.

It is true to say that much changed in the aftermath of both of these murders.

In fact, their deaths prompted a step change of new proportions.

And nothing changed as quickly and dramatically as the strategy to deny and deprive criminals of assets acquired through criminal conduct.

Legislative action took just a matter of weeks, and which culminated in the unanimous passing of the Criminal Assets Bureau Act, 1996 and the Proceeds of Crime Act, 1996.

And against a backdrop of the increasing sophistication of organised criminal gangs - particularly in disguising their profits – the Bureau was formed.

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A quarter of a century ago, the sale and supply of illegal drugs was on the rise.

The trafficking of drugs had become a lucrative criminal business and demand was high.

Because that is how this criminal model works – it preys.

Criminals prey and victimise people – predominately those in social disadvantage, their families and their communities.

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While much of the focus of the Bureau is placed on drug trafficking, the range of crimes within its scope also extends to areas such as theft, burglary, fraud and money laundering.

The one commonality among them all is the impact of these criminal activities on communities.

Through intimidation, violence, anti-social behaviour and very real fear – those involved in profiting from crime can ravage the communities they are embedded in.

Throughout the past 25 years the Bureau has sought to disrupt and prevent this by targeting criminal assets, and making it more and more difficult for criminals to conceal or enjoy the proceeds of their activity.

To achieve this, the Bureau has consistently demonstrated the effectiveness of adopting a vigorous, relentless and pro-active multi-agency approach.

Together with officials from the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and Customs, the Department of Social Protection and the Chief State Solicitors Office as well as counterparts in Northern Ireland, Interpol and Europol - Garda personnel have shown that their work makes a real difference.

And I would like to take a moment to touch on some of their most recent success at local, national and international level.

During 2020 under the guidance of Detective Chief Superintendent Michael Gubbins, the Criminal Assets Bureau brought 31 new Proceeds of Crime cases before the High Court. 

The Bureau returned over €5m of cash to the State last year that was acquired through crime - up from €3.9m the year previously.

As the global economy and banking has evolved, so has CAB.

In 2020, it seized €53m worth of cryptocurrency.

I note too that the Bureau also returned €5.4 million to the Nigerian Government following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and the Federal Republic of Nigeria this time last year.

To date in 2021, 10 new Proceeds of Crime cases have commenced in the High Court.

So far this year, 39 search operations have been conducted.

The Bureau currently has 1,851 targets nationwide, 36 of which are non-residential. 

Roughly half of these targets reside in Dublin and the remainder elsewhere around Ireland.

These targets account for 1,303 full investigations and 548 preliminary investigations.

This output in activity, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic is a testament to the dedication and commitment of every single person working within the Criminal Assets Bureau.

To maximize the local impact, over the last year the Bureau has also placed a focus on the development of a local network of asset profilers. There are over 553 Divisional Asset Profilers throughout the State trained to identify and target the proceeds of crime.

This is a particularly important development as the Proceeds of Crime Act’s threshold stands now at €5000.

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The Bureau is rightfully recognised internationally as a major success in Irish policing and law enforcement. And among its key strengths is its collaboration with other organisations to support its enforcement actions.

As it reaches a quarter of a century, I am deeply grateful for the contribution made by An Garda Síochána in the work of the Bureau through these years.

I wish to express my sincere appreciation for all of your hard work and dedication.

While it is clear that society is changing and consequently so is policing, I know that through our multi-agency co-operation we are prepared to respond and take on new challenges.

But at its core we remain determined that Ireland is a hard target for organised crime.

 

General Secretary, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen

Good Afternoon. 

I would like to thank the Association for the invitation to speak with you all today.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge the very difficult period we have all gone through since March 2020. 

And, in particular, the enormous contribution made by Sergeants and Inspectors in keeping people safe. 

In your positions as supervisors and leaders within An Garda Síochána and the Community, your own commitment and dedication have been central to our ability to effectively deliver a national policing response to COVID-19. 

Thank you also for the support, guidance and mentoring you have given Gardaí. 

At times of crisis, personnel look to their supervisors for direction and you provide exemplary leadership to them. 

It is difficult to say at present the true scale of impact that the onset of COVID-19 has had on the nature of criminal activities. 

However, the surge in incidents of domestic abuse during this time required a dynamic response. 

In what is being described by the United Nations as the ‘shadow pandemic’ – victims of domestic abuse have had far fewer opportunities to leave their homes or seek help. 

In response to this, we introduced Operation Faoiseamh in April 2020 which concentrates on providing proactive support and protection to all victims of domestic abuse. 

We now have over 300 specially trained Garda personnel working in Divisional Protective Services Unit’s (DPSU) within each Garda division. 

They are working to prevent and detect domestic abuse, sexual crime, human trafficking and child abuse. 

In the past 12 months, Operation Faoiseamh and the ongoing work of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau has led to 7,000 charges being preferred for crimes involving an element of domestic abuse. 

Domestic abuse is a pervasive problem in our society. 

As an organisation we must continue to send a very strong message. 

To reassure victims that An Garda Síochána is always here to support you. 

As we have long known - the sale and supply of illegal drugs costs lives and ravages entire communities. 

Drug traffickers quickly reacted to the emergence of the pandemic and have continued to operate at high levels. 

The drug supply in Ireland has proven resilient in spite of the initial disruption caused by COVID-19. 

However, Gardaí have been working successfully to disrupt this illegal activity. 

There are now over 320 Gardaí assigned full time to Divisional Drug Units across every Garda Division nationwide. 

Each of these units complement our enhanced national anti-drugs strategy - Operation Tara – which commenced in July 2021 with a distinct focus on curbing street-level dealing. 

This operation has already led to major seizures in drugs, cash and firearms. 

I know that as Sergeants and Inspectors you are responding too to associated crimes such as drug intimidation and violence.

I want to reiterate that we will be continuing to prioritise Operation Tara and other initiatives aimed at targeting drug dealers in our communities.

The pandemic has also emphasised the importance of continuing to deliver on the plans for organisational change within An Garda Síochána. 

In spite of the national policing response to COVID-19, we continue to make significant strides in areas of development. 

With your support, 13 Divisions have commenced the roll out of the new Operating Model. 

Already, it is increasing the number of frontline Gardaí while delivering a more localised service to communities, and maximizing our operational impact. 

I accept that this is a significant structural transition. 

But I strongly believe that this reshaping will enhance the capabilities of An Garda Síochána. 

And while streamlining administrative processes we are adopting new technologies to further assist Gardaí in their duties. 

The Active Mobility App which was first piloted in 2017 is now strengthening our approach to road traffic policing with over 5,000 of these devices already in use. 

Already this year, over 170,000 fixed charge notices have been issued using Mobility devices. 

As Gardaí we have a combined responsibility to safeguard and respect all human rights

The fair and objective treatment of every individual is of prime importance to our work. 

And we must be, therefore, held to the highest possible standard in how we interact with all those who engage with An Garda Síochána. 

In recent months, we have been working to implement the recommendations of the Garda Cultural Audit and the Human Rights Strategy. 

The Garda Anti-Corruption Unit (GACU) established earlier this year, promotes the highest levels of honesty and professionalism within our organisation. 

Several new policies were introduced in July to enable GACU to further fulfill the recommendations set out in the Government’s A Policing Service For Our Future plan. 

I assure you that this unit is most concerned with protecting members and staff from the harmful effects of corruption, and building a positive, well-functioning working environment to fully support your duties. 

The vast, vast majority of Gardaí operate to the highest standards ethically and professionally but, those who do not, put the public, their colleagues and the organisation at risk from their criminal activity. 

We cannot let that happen. 

And in promoting correct behavior and thoroughly investigating allegations of internal corruption, this unit will help to maintain public confidence in our policing service. 

The implementation of all of the recommendations for A Policing Service for the Future has required much work and commitment from staff across the organisation. 

But there is still much more to do over the coming months. 

As Sergeants and Inspectors you are each playing a leading role in the modernisation of An Garda Síochána. 

I call on each of you to bring the Gardaí who you mentor and support along with us on this journey towards transformation. 

While it has not been unique to Ireland, the level of violence and abuse directed at Gardaí during the pandemic is a cause for significant concern.

Members have been shot and shot at, members have been assaulted, spat at, had cars driven at them and fireworks and bottles thrown at them

We all knew and accepted when we took on the job of policing that it comes with risks.

That is not the point.

It is not acceptable that a small minority in society – and it is only a small minority – feels that just because you wear a uniform that you deserve to be treated in this way.  You do not.

I also fully appreciate the strain that the pandemic has placed on you and your families.

At times, this intense level of duty may be difficult to cope with. 

This pressure can have a cumulative, corrosive effect, and so it is important too that we look out for ourselves and one another. 

There is now a range of expert-led confidential resources available to Garda personnel that can proactively help us all to care for our wellness and mental health. 

The frontline Peer Support Network, the independent 24/7 counselling service, the Garda Occupational Health Service, and the full-time Garda Employee Assistance Service all have a strong reputation. 

It is a strength not a weakness to ask for help. 

And so I ask you to strongly encourage all of those you lead to utilise these free, confidential and independent services.

In 2022, An Garda Síochána will be 100 years old.

There were challenges for our colleagues in the decades before us, just as there are challenges for us now. 

But as leaders, we are the ones who have the ability to drive the reform that will give us a police service for our future. 

One that is rooted in the rich and diverse communities that we proudly serve.

I will end now by once again expressing my sincere appreciation for all of your work and leadership throughout COVID-19 to keep people safe.

Thank you.

In this section you will find copies of recent speeches delivered by Commissioner Harris.

Speech by Commissioner Drew Harris at the Scott Medal Ceremony in Dublin Castle

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Minister, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen

 

It is a privilege to join you all this morning to honour 13 exemplary Gardaí for their most exceptional actions in the execution of their duty.

I would like to extend a warm welcome to the families of our Scott Medal recipients who are here with us.

All of you share a special part in the awards bestowed today.

Because it is you that is there for them every day they leave and come back from home after the toughest of days.

And there are those who sadly gave their lives, but who we honour today posthumously.

 

This ceremony is an important opportunity to reflect on the contributions of today’s recipients.

By its very nature, the work of An Garda Síochána is dangerous and unpredictable.

Very often, it stretches beyond day-to-day duties.

But there are some who in providing our policing service that manage to go even further.

These are the exceptional few who are awarded the Scott Medal.

Today we recognise you, and your extraordinary courage.

 

Among this year’s recipients are those that saved the lives of their fellow Gardaí.

Others who put their lives in jeopardy to protect the public in a time of crisis.

And there are those whose names are inscribed on the monument that stands behind me, overlooking this ceremony, who gave the ultimate sacrifice in their service to the State.

Each one is an eternal reminder of An Garda Síochána’s mission to keep people safe.

 

Since the very first Scott Medal was presented by Col. Scott in 1923, several personal qualities have become closely associated with its recipients.

I would like to take a moment to tell you what those are and why I believe they are commonly held by all those bestowed with this honour.

 

First, Courage.

Of course, it takes courage and confidence to pursue a career in An Garda Síochána in the first instance.

But while others may grapple to find courage when it matters most, to you it is an innate ability.

It was Aristotle who said, “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.”

Courage is cultivated through inspiration too.

And all 13 of today’s recipients inspire our whole organisation to act courageously.

Your valiant actions live on in today’s An Garda Síochána.

 Next, Integrity.

Integrity is a quality that most strive towards.

To do the right thing in all situations.

As a recipient of the Scott Medal you have shown your overarching commitment to preserving justice and keeping the people you serve, safe from harm.

True integrity is a core value of An Garda Síochána.

And as Gardaí, your virtue is absolutely central to our ability to uphold the highest ethical standards and practices in policing in Ireland.

 Bravery.

Over time, a misconception has emerged that those who are brave feel no fear in the midst of a life threatening situation or dangerous encounter.

That they are fearless or without panic.

When in fact - real bravery is feeling fear in the very pit of your stomach.

But choosing to resist it.

And despite knowing the risks, proceeding anyway.

This is the true and accurate measure of bravery.

 Lastly, there is Wisdom.

Through your actions you demonstrated your quick intuition.

Your intelligence to confront and sensibly handle hazardous situations.

The actions for which you are being awarded this prestigious medal, will have undoubtedly been traumatic.

And so there is wisdom too in knowing when and how to seek out support.

Whether that is leaning on family and friends, or reaching out to the resources within An Garda Síochána.

Because consistently building on our personal wellbeing and resilience, best honours our profession.

 

It goes without saying that those being recognised today did not act with valour in search of accolade.

They did so instinctively.

That instinct and all of the other prized qualities that you possess and which I have spoken of, are what has led you to this most prestigious award.

You embody all that it means to be an outstanding member of our police service.

 

And on behalf of An Garda Síochána, I wish to express my immense gratitude to you all for your inspiration to all of us who serve.

 

Thank you.

Scott medal Booklet 25 August 2021

Unveiling of a Commemorative Plaque for Detective Garda Richard Hyland and Detective Sergeant Patrick McKeown at 98A Rathgar Road*

 

Monday, August 16th 2021

 

 Elected Representatives, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great honour to join you all this morning to recognise the immense bravery and sacrifice of our late Garda colleagues, Detective Garda Richard Hyland and Detective Sergeant Patrick McKeown.

And in particular I would like to acknowledge the presence of Mary P. Hyland and Órla McKeown.

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For us to fully recognise these men’s sacrifice here on Rathgar Road, we must briefly consider the preceding events and the historical context of Ireland as a new republic.

While the continent was facing the awful realities of World War II, as a neutral country Ireland was not without its own dangers.

This period took a heavy toll on Gardaí, who were charged with tackling activity associated with IRA training.

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From the street, this premises at 98A Rathgar Road looked like any other ordinary shop, but was in fact suspected to be a base for subversive activity.

On this day 81 years ago both Detectives, accompanied by three other Gardaí, Detective Garda Mullally, Detective Garda Wilmot and Detective Garda Brady, arrived  here shortly before 8am to conduct a search under the Offences Against the State Act.

By its nature, these men will have been aware of the risk of this operation and yet were undeterred. Garda members were aware that it was likely armed members of the IRA were inside the premises.

They demonstrated personal bravery and performed their duties intelligently, fully knowing that there was a real and imminent risk to their lives.

Many of us here today will have read or been told of the harrowing details of the events that followed.

We know that upon entry and without warning, both Detective Garda Hyland and Detective Sergeant McKeown suffered severe and ultimately fatal gunshot wounds in the line of duty.

Detective Garda Richard Hyland, a native of Mayo and later Maynooth joined An Garda Síochána in September 1933.

At this address less than eight years later, he was wounded by seven gunshots, but managed to discharge one shot from his official firearm in defence of his colleagues, before he died from his injuries at the scene. He was survived by his wife Kathleen and two young children.

Detective Sergeant Patrick McKeown joined An Garda Síochána in 1923 and 16 years later he was deployed to the Special Branch based in Dublin Castle.

On August 16th, 1940 he suffered one gunshot wound, but, despite this, used all his remaining strength to escape and warn his colleagues to shield from the gunfire.

He died from his wounds the following day and was later laid to rest near his birthplace in South Armagh. He was survived by his mother, his brother Felix, extended family and friends.

It was these brave actions that ultimately saved the lives of their Garda colleagues that day.

The search led to the seizure of a range of weapons including a Thompson Sub Machine Gun, revolvers, pistols and ammunition. Two members of the IRA were arrested nearby and subsequently convicted of the murder of Detective Sergeant McKeown and Detective Garda Hyland.

In many ways, the events of Rathgar Road altered the course of Irish history.

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Later this month, An Garda Síochána will also recognise their exceptional courage and bravery by awarding the Gold Scott Medal to both men posthumously at a ceremony in Dublin Castle.

The reverse of the Scott Medal carries the inscription, "Garda Síochána na h-Éireann".

Its four outside panels form the arms of the four provinces of Ireland - Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connaught. 

This is a particularly fitting symbol of the dedication shown by both Detective Garda Hyland and Detective Sergeant McKeown on August 16th 1940.

It is the mission of An Garda Síochána to keep all of the people of Ireland safe. As Gardaí they conducted their duties that day with this purpose in mind, and they made the supreme sacrifice to protect the State.

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Today’s anniversary and the unveiling of a commemorative plaque in honour of those men reminds us of the members of An Garda Síochána that have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Everyone on the Garda Roll of Honour – Detective Garda Hyland and Detective Sergeant McKeown included - represent the very real, everyday dangers faced by Gardaí.

This plaque is another fitting reminder of their bravery. No matter the passage of time – they will never be forgotten.

Finally, on behalf of An Garda Síochána I wish to extend my sincere thanks to Dublin City Council for making today’s unveiling possible. It is very much appreciated by everyone in An Garda Síochána and most importantly by the surviving relatives of Detective Sergeant McKeown and Detective Garda Hyland.

*Please note that the above text may not fully reflect the speech delivered on the day.