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). In this segment, Conor considers the value of local knowledge in the work of AGS.
MICHAEL DALTON: A little piece where that is a bone of contention for me, local knowledge for a policeman do you think it is very important?
CONOR BRADY: It is essential. We have a system in which the police operate with the consent of the community, policing by consent, and if you don’t know people and they don’t know you then it is very difficult to have that consent and that support. The ways in which the Guards knew people in days gone by are largely gone and are not going to be repeated. Things like doing the passport forms and the school attendance and doing the agricultural statistics and handing out pension books that is never going to happen again but there are other forms of connection and communication and by and large it seems to me that those in leadership positions they do actually understand this now, the connections with the community are made basically through community action groups, through neighbourhoods associations, and through sports clubs, I know now, for example, in the area in Dublin where I live the Cula GAA Club, the top hurling club in Dublin, there is Guards everywhere in that and they play a very important role in the running of the club and they have very good relations with the parents and with the young players. Those people are meeting the Guards in a different context, they are not meeting them at the farmyard gate, they are not meeting them necessarily on the beat but they are in contact with them. Certainly those kinds of contacts which give the local knowledge, which you are so rightly highlighting, they are not going to happen by accident any more, they have to be worked at, they have to be structured. I think the depot understands that now at this stage, I think they do understand that you do have to do that, you have to reach out and you have to connect through to the family support groups and the women support groups and the intervention agencies. The old days when the Guard would wander down the street and have a chat over the half door those are gone but there are other ways of doing it and I think probably the real difficulty is that the Guards now have so many other things to do that it is actually difficult to get resources to put into that community building exercise. I hope it will never be lost because that really is the key to it.