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 speaks about writing his second book on the organisation – The Guarding of Ireland (referred to on the recordings as ‘Guardians of Ireland’).
MICHAEL DALTON: What was the difference between Guardians of the Peace and Guardians of Ireland?
CONOR BRADY: Very good question. Guardians of the Peace I suppose in many ways it was a celebration of an extraordinary job well done, the founding of the force, the establishment of the force, the development of the force around the country, the embedding of the ideal of the unarmed Garda and it stopped really after World War II, left it at that. The Guardians of Ireland was a different story because that really brought us forward from there and of course, that was the point which from the late ’60s onward where everything, if you like, went pear-shaped, you had the Troubles in the North, you had the rise in armed crime here, essentially a rural force designed for peacetime was asked to go into the frontline in a security role against one of probably Europe’s most formidable terrorist organisations.
As we all know there were amazingly successful things done in those years, amazing successes against crime and against subversion and the Guards defended the state. I am quite certain were it not for the Guards on the ground the State would have been overwhelmed but there was a price to be paid and that was paid in many of the things that went wrong.
The Guarding of Ireland tries to both acknowledge the enormous success of An Garda Síochána between the 1960s and the present day but at the same time it tries to narrate the issues and the problems that arose and the efforts that were made, sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully to deal with them and to make An Garda Síochána a better organisation.