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Garda Síochána

Án Garda Síochána (in English the Civic Guard, literally Guardians of the Peace) is the Republic of Ireland's national police force. The force as a unit is generally called the Garda, while when referring to members of the force collectively the plural Irish language word Gardaí is used. The latter is more widely used by Irish people.

A member of the motorcycle unit of the Garda Síochána

Garda headquarters are located in Phoenix Park, Dublin.


The force was formed in 1922, when it replaced the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), and took over the responsibility of policing the fledgling Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann) outside Dublin, with the capital's policing remaining the responsibility of Dublin's own local police force, the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP). In 1925 the DMP merged with the Garda Síochána.

An unarmed force

Uniformed members of the Garda Síochána do not carry firearms, although plainclothes detectives and the members of the Special Branch do. It is a tradition of the service that standard policing should be carried out in both rural and urban areas by uniformed officers equipped only with a wooden truncheon. This has been the situation since 1922 when the first Commissioner, Michael Staines, declared "The Garda Síochána will succeed not by force of arms or numbers, but on their moral authority as servants of the people"

Garda Commissioners

The force is headed by a chief policeman called the Garda Commissioner who is appointed by the Irish government. The first Commissioner, Michael Staines, held office for only eight months. It was his successors, Eoin O'Duffy and Eamon Broy, who played a central role in the development of the force. O'Duffy later became a short-lived Irish neo-fascist political leader before heading to Spain to fight with Francisco Franco's Nationalists. Broy's fame grew in the 1990s when he featured in the film Michael Collins, in which it was misleadingly suggested that he had been murdered by the British during the Irish War of Independence when in reality he lived for decades and headed the Garda Síochána from 1923 to 1938. One later Commissioner, Edward Garvey was famously sacked by the Irish Government of Jack Lynch in 1978. He took and won an unfair dismissals legal case. His successor in turn, Patrick McLoughlin, was forced to resign along with his deputy in 1983 over his peripheral involvement in a political scandal.

The Scott Medal

The Scott Medal for Bravery is the highest honour for bravery and valour which can be awarded to a member of the Garda Síochána. The first medals were funded by General Walter Scott, an honorary Commissioner of the New York Police Department. To mark the American links, the American English spelling of Valor is used on the medal. The Commissioner of the Garda Síochána chooses the recipients of the medal, which is presented by the Minister for Justice. (See Walter Scott biography)

In 2000, Anne McCabe, widow of Garda Gerry McCabe, who was murdered by the Provisional IRA when it was officially on ceasefire, accepted the Scott Medal for Bravery that had been awarded posthumously to her husband. [1]

Allegations against the Garda Síochána

In the 1990s and early 2000s the Garda Síochána faced a series of allegations, including suggestions of corrupt and dishonest policing in County Donegal (which is the subject of a judicial inquiry), allegations that a small number of policemen had links with the Provisional IRA and that others mishandled the lead-up to and aftermath of, the Omagh Bombing by the Real IRA.

In 2004, an RTÉ Prime Time documentary accused small elements within the Garda of abusing their powers by physically assaulting people arrested. A retired District Justice suggested that some members of the force had committed perjury in criminal trials before him, while a Minister for State (junior minister) accused police in one instance of "torture". The Garda Commissioner accused the television programme of lacking balance.

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