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 recalls her experience at Garda Training College Templemore.
MR. FARRELLY: 1975 was the year that you graced the gates of Templemore. Tell me about that experience.
RETIRED ASST. COMM. CLANCY: That was an exciting day and believe it or not when I went into Templemore, I met one of the girls who was joining at the same time was actually in Cathal Brugha Street with me doing a different course and I didn’t know her very well. So I had a friend immediately. Ten of us joined in 1975. We would probably have been the biggest class since the first women joined in 1959. I think there was 12 in that class and I think we were the next big class because women were just coming in dribs and drabs, you know, prior to that.
So ten of us, ten women, I think there was about 48 men at the time. We were divided into three different classes. There would have been about, you know, 14 or 15 lads in a class and there was three women in class A, three women in class B and four women in class C. There was no reason for these letters it was just a division of the classes. So, yeah, the learning was really, it was different, it was exciting, it was like stuff we were watching on television, Cagney and Lacey and all of that. It was absolutely brilliant, so it was and we did everything in Templemore that the lads did. Our learning was the very exact same. Our physical training was the same. The marching was the same and we loved that. We had Liam Wall as our drill instructor and he really put us through our paces. And all of this was toward being able to do a passing out parade where your family were going to be around for the passing out parade. The Garda Band came down for the passing out parade as well and it was, it was big stuff for all of us at the time. Really really exciting.
The only difference between ourselves and the lads at that stage was when it came to learning about the investigation of rapes, sexual assault and the crimes that were more involving women, we were actually separated from the lads. We were taken out of the classes. So the ten of us were taken out of the class into a room with Phyllis Nolan who was our Sergeant at the time and that’s where we learned how to take statements and we learned that from reading the statements that Phyllis would have taken herself or other Members would have taken and we didn’t think anything of it at the time really, you know, it was just the way things we didn’t question it and we didn’t question anything really in Templemore at that time. It was the times that were in it and you just got on with it and did what you were told but I suppose when we thought back and talked about it later on we thought, yeah, yeah, that was the most unusual aspect of it.