Interviewed 25 October 2021
Catherine Clancy was the first woman to be appointed an assistant commissioner in An Garda Síochána on 10 September 2003. A native of Donegal, she joined AGS in 1975 and enjoyed steady promotion through the ranks. In 2008, she surprised many of her colleagues when she took early retirement.
For more about the experience of women in AGS, visit HERE In this segment, Catherine reflects back on a stellar career in AGS.
MR. FARRELLY: Catherine, we’re coming close to the end. It’s been very enlightening but overall I suppose your reflections in relation to your time being in the Garda Síochána, you know, to sum it up. I can see a true point, you said you were proud to be a Member and proud to have achieved what you’ve achieved. Is that the way you see it?
RETIRED ASST. COMM. CLANCY: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Do you know something John, this was something I never foresaw, you know. I’ll always say that young people when they’re finishing their leaving cert and they are filling in their CAO’s, that’s what they do now. They haven’t got a clue what they want to do, you know, and I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do but, you know, people who knew me better than I knew myself kind of stirred me in that direction and I’ll be eternally grateful to my father for having done that. Now I could have rebelled against it and said, no, no. Like I used to see daddy going out at ten o’clock at night and not coming in until six o’clock in the morning and that was kind of no life for anyone. I used to have to polish the buttons on his uniform and I thought, you know, it never dawned on me. It just never dawned on me. Even though as I said earlier on, I come from a long line of guards. It just never dawned on me that this was the role for me but I remember doing a Myers Briggs course once upon a time and the offshoot of that, you know, when the whole summary was done, I was described as someone who believes in justice and fairness and maybe deep down in my own psychology, maybe that’s what drove me once I started and I do remember also, you know, the words of wisdom that my father gave me the day actually of the passing out parade and he said to me:
“Now listen Catherine you’ll have a lot of powers. You go out and you do your job and you do it with as much compassion as you can because there will always be people there who haven’t had the opportunities that you have had.”
And the other thing he said to me was:
“It’s your job to bring people before the courts and that’s where your job ends. You leave the rest of it then up to a jury or to a judge.”
And I think really what he was trying to say to me is, you know, once you bring people before the court, you know, you’re not going to kind of stick the knife in further, you know, by being disingenuous or anything like that. Just do your job and do it with a bit of compassion. My father was always full of common sense and I’d like to think that he passed that on to me.
But look it, overall as I said before, I was purely, you know, the instrument by which things happened for women in the guards. Just as Phyllis Nolan was the instrument by which, you know, women became officers as was Sarah her name still won’t come to me. But I was very privileged to have had such, I mean a lot of people go into work and they dread going to work. I loved every single day that I went into work. I never had a bad day. So to be able to say that after 33 years in the one job, you know, has to be something wonderful to do. I loved it. I had great friends. I met the most amazing people and people who helped me. I didn’t do this on my own. I had people who took an interest in me and John Courtney, as I say, being one of them and gave me the opportunities so that I could grow, you know, within myself in doing my job and yeah and would I recommend it for women today, absolutely. It’s an amazing job.