Interviewed 7 July 2021
In this piece of audio, Brendan Walsh, a native of Dublin reflects on his first posting as a Garda to Kilmainham. He outlines his early experiences as a Garda and the insights he gained into Dublin life, which he had not been aware of prior to his role as a Garda.
MR. DREW: Okay. And what was Kilmainham like then?
BRENDAN WALSH: Ehm, like Kilmainham well like I came from Harolds Cross, so it wasn’t, it wasn’t a total step into the unknown for me. I knew where it was. It was close to home. But as regards policing it, or what was involved in it, it was a real step into the unknown, and it certainly opened my eyes, because there was, there was a world existing in Dublin 8 that I didn’t really understand, or realise or know about, but I soon came to learn it very quick, because ehm, the A District, Kilmainham and Kevin Street, they were it was a steep learning curve. You learned on the job very quickly. I went to Unit C. Four of us went from Templemore from our group, from our intake. I went on Unit C, and no more than when I joined the Guards, it was a fortuitous turn of the road, I think going to Unit C was also fortuitous for me because I was lucky enough to have a couple of great Sergeants there and great people on the unit. Really solid. Really helpful. Learned very quickly. They kept good order. They ran a tight but fair ship. And those years I had in Kilmainham, I’m still in contact with the lads. They were probably I spent seven years there and they were probably seven great years. We worked hard but we played hard as well.
MR. DREW: And what, kind of, were the main problems in Kilmainham at the time?
MR. WALSH: Well, we got when I came I came in first like on the beat, I was brought out by another Guard. My very first night and we ended up getting chased down James’ Street by a gang of young fellas, throwing stones at us, and I came back to the station that night thinking “oh my God, what am I after getting myself into?”. Like it was really you know, Dublin in the early ’80s was, there was a lot of social deprivation, a lot of social problems, and Dublin 8 was probably where a lot of it was. There was also a huge drug problem, heroin was starting to really take hold in Fatima Mansions, Dolphin House, around Dublin 8. So that brought an awful lot of problems. So we ended up dealing with, ehm, people that were from the area or people coming in buying drugs. Like looking back on it now, we were probably, we were totally unprepared and probably overwhelmed by what happened during those years in the ’80s.
MR. DREW: Yeah. Then you mentioned something about the AIDS epidemic then.
MR. WALSH: That’s right, yeah. So we again looking back on it now, like it would have been, it would have been actually when I was in Kilmainham I actually ended up dealing with guys I went to school with that had got into trouble. Like I would have they would have been brought into the station, and it was kind of weird meeting these fellas, and like I was still young and kind of probably inexperienced, and dealing with these guys who had, through whatever choices they made, or whatever happened, they ended up on the other side of the line. But, um, we experienced a new disease that took hold called AIDS, and it was really startling to watch the physical disintegration of people who were, guys who were the same and it was mostly men that were the same age as me, and we were dealing with them on a daily basis, meeting them on the street and arresting them, or just dealing with them day to day and seeing their physical, the physical toll this disease took on them, and an awful lot of them, a lot of the guys that we dealt with didn’t survive and died.
And like even from dealing with it, like we were starting to hear little bits and pieces, and nobody knew could you touch people, could you know, hazard stuff. You were always afraid of searching people thinking you were going to get stuck by the needle. That was all in the back of your mind. Everything was you got a great fear and kind of unknown about what this disease, you know, could do. And it took a terrible toll on people who were basically the same age as I was that didn’t survive.
MR. DREW: Okay. Okay. So then you moved to the Press Office then, is that correct?
MR. WALSH: Yeah. Seven years in Kilmainham, seven great years. Then I got an opportunity to move to Headquarters. Again it was a complete step into the unknown. I went up to, up to the Press Office, which is part of the Commissioner’s Office, and went in there and started dealing with the media on a daily basis. Again, it was a steep learning curve because learn on the job, listening to again I was lucky to have wise and helpful colleagues who helped me, steering me along the way, and it was a different, different way of dealing with problems that the job was dealing with every day. We were dealing with fatal road crashes, or murders, or international incidents, you know, or maybe nothing at all. Every day was different. It was a different seeing a different side of the Guards.