Interviewed 22 September 2021
Conor Brady is an Irish journalist, novelist and academic, a former Editor of The Irish Times, an Editor of the Garda Review, a contributor on RTÉ and a former Commissioner of the Garda Ombudsman. He is also the son of Cornelius Brady, or Con Brady, who joined An Garda Síochána in 1923 and died in service in 1962. Superintendent Con Brady was one of the Garda Superintendents who shouldered the coffin of Kevin O’Higgins, the assassinated Minister for Justice in 1927. Conor wrote both Guardians of the Peace: The Irish Police (2000), as well as The Guarding of Ireland: The Garda Siochana & the Irish State 1960–2014 (2014). Here, Conor reflects on his connection with AGS and his work in both the Garda Review and later writing about the organisation.
CONOR BRADY: Yes, my late father he came as Superintendent to Tullamore in 1945 on transfer from Cork city north and he served as Superintendent there until 1962, when he died, about six months short of his due retirement date. So, yeah, I kind of grew up, if you like, very much surrounded by what you would now call Garda culture. There was, by the standard at the time, a fairly large station party in Tullamore. You know the station, in a way, was kind of an extension of my home. I was terribly fond of all of the Members of the station party, they were a unique group of men. There were no women of course in those days. They were all old enough to be my father, I suppose, some of them a little bit younger than my father, but I made very firm friends there, I have very happy recollections. I suppose I absorbed an awful lot of what the Guards did and what the whole thing was about in those days, and that kind of stayed with me later as I developed as a reporter, as a journalist, particularly then as I began to develop my interest in the work of An Garda Síochána.
MICHAEL DALTON: That was an interesting experience. You still continued your involvement with the Gardaí when you went to Garda Review as the Editor.
CONOR BRADY: Yeah. I went to UCD and I did a degree in history and politics and I joined The Irish Times in 1969 as a young reporter and my boss, Donal Foley, said to me: What do you know about? I said: I know very little about anything, I said, except, I know a little bit about the Guards maybe. He said: That is great, we have nobody writing about the Guards. It happened that at that time a young Guard called Jack Marrinan and a few of his colleagues had actually begun to put the Garda case for improved pay and conditions on a very professionalised footing. There was a lot of discontent in the Guards. The old regime was changing. The new regime wasn’t doing very well. I began to report on that for The Irish Times and did so during the years when the Conroy Commission was sitting and when Conroy reported. Then Jack Marrinan came to me and he said: Look we need to get the Garda review up and running, it had gone defunct, he said: Would you do it for us? I said I would. I left The Irish Times, joined the Garda Review. A lot of people would have said it was a retrograde career step at the time but I loved the challenge and I did three very happy years, reintroduced the Garda Review, set it up and I handed it over. Then when I left, interestingly enough, the second editor after me was Gerry Reynolds, whose father John Willie Reynolds had been a detective here in Tullamore, John Willie went on to become a Detective Superintendent in the Metropolitan, so Jerry took over from me and I went to work in RTÉ at that stage. That was my first excursion into the world of the Guards. I learned an awful lot as editor of the Garda Review and learned I suppose a lot about the power balance within the Guards, the representative bodies, the Commissioner’s Office, the officers ranks, the Department of Justice, the Department of Finance, learned an awful lot in practical terms which stood to me later on.