Belfast Telegraph

No longer glass ceiling for women in Garda, anniversary event told

Five of the 12 first ever female recruits to the Garda, known as the Class of 1959, were honoured at an event in Dublin.

The 12 first ever female recruits to the Garda were known as the Class of 1959 (Niall Carson/PA)
The 12 first ever female recruits to the Garda were known as the Class of 1959 (Niall Carson/PA)

The 60th anniversary celebration of women joining An Garda Siochana has heard there is no longer a glass ceiling within the force.

Five of the 12 first ever female recruits to the Garda, known as the Class of 1959, were honoured at an event in Dublin’s Farmleigh House.

Following a long-running campaign by female civic groups, the announcement of women joining the force caused huge upset at the time, both in society and within the Dail.

Sixty years ago these pioneers of policing in Ireland took the brave and honourable step of becoming a Garda and, in doing so, not only helped protect the communities they served, but also inspired many other women to follow in their footsteps Garda Commissioner Drew Harris

After 22 weeks’ training, they were allocated to Dublin’s Pearse Street Garda station, they were paid less than their male colleagues, subject to a marriage ban, wore a different uniform, and were known as “Ban Gardai”.

During his speech, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris hailed the women as trailblazers and said such obstacles to women’s advancement in the Garda are a thing of the past.

“Sixty years ago these pioneers of policing in Ireland took the brave and honourable step of becoming a Garda and, in doing so, not only helped protect the communities they served, but also inspired many other women to follow in their footsteps,” he said.

“We have come a long way since the first 12 women joined An Garda Siochana in July 1959. Female representation within the ranks of An Garda Siochana is strong.

“Women perform duty across the whole range of operational units and bureaus. Every day, the women of An Garda Siochana make a positive difference to individuals and the communities this organisation serves across the country and further afield.”

It was noted throughout the event and by the commissioner that female gardai have suffered “unacceptable, sexist and degrading” treatment while serving in the force.

Minister Charlie Flanagan spoke at length during his speech about the recent case of Majella Moynihan, an unwed female gardai who was forced to give up her child against her will, and had her career halted due to the discrimination she suffered in the aftermath of having a child “outside of wedlock”.

He spoke of meeting and apologising to Ms Moynihan, and that she had told him of the camaraderie she felt from some of the other female gardai during the episode.

Currently, female gardai only make up 27% of the force but Mr Flanagan said the overhaul of the police force will work to advance gender equality.

“I’m keen to ensure that state bodies like Garda Siochana are friendly workplaces for women,” he said.

“An Garda Siochana is going through a time of reform, and is an attractive career, and I would encourage more women to join, and would point to the great options career-wise for women in specialisation in the security forces of the state.

“It’s important in any police service that the make-up of that service is reflective of society at large, that’s why we need more women and minorities and reflective of modern day Irish society, and I know the Garda commissioner concurs with that view.”

One female guard, Sergeant Nicola Brady from Dublin’s Finglas Garda station, in the Class of 1995, was one of five women in her first station.

“I have led a charmed existence in the guards, I haven’t had any negative experience, you’re paid to do a job, the lads are paid the same, you’re expected to get out and do it, you’re paid to get stuck in,” she said.

“We all police the same for the most part.

“In some circumstances women take a softer approach, especially in domestic situations, but not all the time.

“Some people might not agree with me, but women tend to be a bit more rational and practical than men at times – but I’m sure someone will correct me on that.”

PA

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