The tradition of Garda Review

The magazine was established to educate and inform but soon became a campaigning voice for those denied political representation writes Neil Ward

The Decade of Centenaries celebrated in the Republic of Ireland is now getting towards its climax; as the 100th year of the end of the War of Independence, the establishment of the Irish Free State grows ever closer. With it will follow the centenary of its new police Force, the Civic Guard, that later amalgamated with the Dublin Metropolitan Police to form the freshly named An Garda Síochána. These moments will soon be upon us.

Every history and analysis of An Garda Síochána written so far has necessarily cited the Garda Review among its primary source material. There is good reason for this; because the voices of those founder members and their successors is often only found between the covers of the magazine. Garda Review has a long tradition – and is now the longest-established periodical magazine in Ireland, founded in 1923. Its establishment followed the Civic Guard mutiny in Kildare of 1922 and the replacement of Michael Staines as commissioner by Eóin O’Duffy.

There was of course a commission of inquiry established to examine the causes of the mutiny; and this inquiry recommended that the police should be separated from politics – and also that senior ‘experienced’ officers should be recruited from the USA, France or Germany. Crucially, the report also recommended disarming the new police. The inquiry also recommended education, study and examination preparation to expedite the training process; and the report also recommended the establishment of a journal to be produced for the membership of the entire force to publish useful information relevant to the study of police duties.

Early in 1923 Iris An Ghárda was established as a semi-official journal later renamed the Gárda Review. Conor Brady, former editor of The Irish Times and Garda Review wrote in his 1974 history ‘Guardians of the Peace’ that: “each guard was instructed to buy a copy of the magazine and there were strict orders that it should be filed for reference in the station. In addition to O’Duffy’s police duty section, the Review contained a magazine section which dealt with police affairs and it carried a continuous series of lessons in the Irish language – and coupled with the promotion of sport became the genesis of the cultural movement Coiste Siamsa. It was to become a factor of considerable importance in the formative years of the force.”

The Minister for Home Affairs Kevin O’Higgins implemented the recommendation that a magazine should be published for members of the new Civic Guard. The first issue of Iris An Ghárda was published on 26 February 1923. O’Higgins used the magazine to directly address this new audience while the civil war showed no signs of abating:

“The internal politics and political controversies of the country are not your concern. You will serve, with the same imperturbable discipline and with increasing efficiency, any Executive which has the support of the majority of the people’s representatives.”

These were tumultuous times – O’Higgins was urging the Civic Guard to prevent anarchy from threatening the democratic government. Gregory Allen’s ‘The Garda Síochána: Policing Independent Ireland 1922-82’ recounts those early months of 1923 and how morale was being undermined, especially among recruits. A service of consecration of the Civic Guard to the Sacred Heart was arranged for Easter Sunday April 1 where 1,500 recruits paraded on the square in Phoenix Park. Allen wrote, “Led by O’Duffy, the greatest parade of policemen in Irish history made no headlines in the national press. Iris An Ghárda reported the ceremony with photographs in a centre-page spread.” In short, the Garda Review has always reported on policing events and issues that would have otherwise been ignored in history – and without it this history could well be lost forever and that would give a different version of the truth to the origins and development of the fledgling state. It would also deprive the credit due to those who contribute to the preservation of democracy.

By 1929 the Garda Review was advocating on behalf of the members of the Force, when the national economy was again in difficulty – the lower ranks’ boot allowance was withdrawn and the bicycle allowance was halved. The editor of Garda Review, William Harding, circulated the magazine to members of the Oireachtas pointing out that if guards stopped using their own personal bicycles, any money saved would be necessarily spent on public transport or taxis.
This unbroken tradition informs us of our role in Irish society. We have a duty to the legacy of those who preceded us. GR

For full and in-depth coverage, see the current printed edition of Garda Review.

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