Home News & Current Affairs Address by Minister for Justice and Equality at the Scott Medal Award Ceremony | An Garda Síochána’s Highest Honour
Address by Minister for Justice and Equality at the Scott Medal Award Ceremony | An Garda Síochána’s Highest Honour

Address by Minister for Justice and Equality at the Scott Medal Award Ceremony | An Garda Síochána’s Highest Honour

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Garda College Friday 8 December 2017

Commissioner, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

It is a great privilege to be among you today to acknowledge and pay tribute to the selfless acts of bravery performed with great courage, in the protection of the community they so willingly serve, by the 34 members of An Garda Síochána who will be awarded a Scott Medal or a Commissioner’s commendation. 

In all, there are seven recipients of the Gold Scott medal today.  Sadly two of the recipients, Garda Tony Golden and Garda Michael Clerkin are receiving their award posthumously.

Just over two years ago, on 11 October 2015, Garda Tony Golden was called upon to protect a member of his community and, as came naturally to Tony, he responded without fear of putting his safety in jeopardy. Tony was a community Garda who was passionate about his work and performed his role with pride and a deep sense of public duty. His life was cruelly taken while carrying out that public duty, protecting a vulnerable member of his community, as he had done so many times before. Tony’s generosity and commitment to helping others stand in stark contrast to the manner of his callous and cowardly murder.  

The appalling murder of Garda Golden was an unspeakable crime and life-changing event for his family. The Government and the nation have expressed their abhorrence and deep sorrow at the loss of his life, and I wish on their behalf and on my own behalf to extend again my condolences to his wife Nicola, their three children, and to the extended family of An Garda Síochána. I know that every day they bravely shoulder the loss of a loving and caring husband and father. I wish to assure them of our support at this particularly difficult time of the year when they must face another Christmas without Tony.

In his life and in his work, Garda Tony Golden typified the values that characterise what is best about An Garda Síochána – unstinting commitment to family, community and country.

Today’s posthumous award of the Scott Medal to Tony  is a recognition of the exceptional personal bravery, the spirit of determined public service and the utterly fearless dedication to his fellow citizens and to this State that sets Gardaí like Tony Golden  in a category apart.

I would also  like to commend Garda Gary O’ Callaghan who was  first to respond and provide assistance to Tony, his bravery and presence of mind are being acknowledged by the awarding of a Silver Scott medal.

For reasons I will outline later, it is a deeply personal and poignant moment for me to be here today as Minister for Justice and Equality for the posthumous award of a Gold Scott Medal to Garda Michael Clerkin. His four colleagues Sgt Jim Cannon, Detective Garda Tom Peters, Detective Garda Ben Thornton and Garda Gerry Bohan, who thankfully are still alive to see this day, are also to receive Gold Medals. 

Forty-one years ago on the 16 October 1976 Michael, Tom, Ben, Jim, and Gerry were on duty in their local community. Michael was just 24 having proudly become a member of An Garda Síochána four and a half years earlier. They were not to know that later that day they were to be the victims of a cowardly plot to lure them to their death.  An anonymous telephone call was received in Portlaoise Garda station that a number of armed had gathered in a derelict cottage at Garryhinch, Portarlington with the intent to kidnap and kill my late father who at that time, as well as representing the Constituency of Laois Offaly, was Parliamentary Secretary to a member of the Government.  A search of the cottage was planned and Michael and his colleagues went to search the premises and confront the gang. Michael was first to enter the cottage through a window. He opened the front door to let his colleague in and a bomb exploded killing him instantly and grievously wounding his four colleagues. Garda Peters lost his sight and suffered severe damage to his hearing that day.  No warning was given and they were shown no mercy. It was a deliberate, heinous and cowardly act.

I remember that night as if it were yesterday. I was at home in Mountmellick with my parents and my three sisters when a call was received from the Gardaí. My father came into the room and told us that no one was to go out. He did not elaborate but from his demeanour, I knew something was wrong. At about 11:50pm we were about to go to bed when there was a rap on the door and a number of Gardaí were there. I remember vividly the uniform and plain clothes Gardaí surrounding the house. Some of the Gardaí came in and told my father of the awful events that had unfolded.

I have never forgotten their courage and selflessness on that fateful night and I feel enormously privileged to be here today, 41 years later as Minister for Justice and Equality, when their bravery and sacrifice is being recognised by the award of a Gold Scott medal.  Of course, no medal or words of mine could ever negate the loss of Michael’s life to his family including his brother Peter who is here today, his friends and colleagues, or the suffering caused to Tom, Ben, Jim and Gerry, but I know that today’s  award of the Scott Medal  is hugely important to them as it is a fitting tribute to their exceptional personal bravery, and commitment to public service. On behalf of my family, I would like to offer them my heartfelt thanks.

I also wish to acknowledge the support of the local community who responded by immediately making their way to the scene to assist the Gardaí in rescuing the survivors from the debris of the house. 

There is no doubt but that these were among the darkest days in the history of the State. The day before the ambush the Supreme Court had upheld the constitutionality of the Emergency Powers Act 1976. We were in the midst of the Troubles and the State’s authorities had to face an unprecedented attack on its very existence from paramilitary groups who engaged in a long and bloody campaign of terrorist bombing, murder and criminality. Many of you gathered here will recall how those events sadly dominated our daily diet of news. So many lives were lost and so many people were bereaved, needlessly. 

In the face of that threat the brave men and women of An Garda Síochána, supported by their colleagues in the Defence Forces, and by law-abiding communities the length and breadth of this country, stood firm in defence of this State and of our democracy.   

Their heroic bravery in our cause puts in sharp contrast the ignominious cowardice of those who sought to undermine our way of life.  Today is testimony that the gratitude of the Nation for the valiant acts of heroism performed by members of An Garda Síochána in protecting the State during those drastic times will endure through the ages in the national memory and long outlive the grubby acts of those who dared to take their lives. 
  
The final recipient of a Gold Medal today is Detective Garda Dominick Hutchin. Detective Garda Hutchin is rightly being honoured for his bravery in facing down two armed raiders in a robbery on the Department of Social Welfare Office in North Cumberland St on 1 September 1987 during which he was  injured. I know his wife Eileen and his son are here today to accept the medal on his behalf. 

Today the awarding of further 10 Scott medals and 17 Commendations to other members of An Garda Síochána is evidence, if any was needed, that the proud tradition of bravery and selflessness within An Garda Síochána lives on. There is no doubt that it requires courage and personal resolve to serve as a member of An Garda Síochána. It is a fact that the men and women of An Garda Síochána, every single day put themselves in harm’s way in order that we may go about our lawful business and enjoy the right to live safely in our communities.  On reading of the heroic acts of personal bravery each of the recipients performed, willingly putting your own safety before others, I was deeply struck by the extraordinary courage displayed by so many members when faced with life and near life-threatening situations

On behalf of the Government and every citizen, I wish to thank you, and to assure you of our gratitude, respect and support. 

As we reflect on your heroic actions, many of us will wonder at the source of your courage and determination to take whatever steps were required to face down criminals or to save a life, at great personal risk, when you were called upon to do so. The answer quite simply must be that as a member of An Garda Síochána, courage comes naturally to, it is part of what you are, and you draw your strength and courage from the people you work with and from the communities who support you and stand with you. 

In conclusion, your awards are testament that the bravery and courage you have shown endures, through the gratitude of the people whose lives and property you took great personal risk to save and protect, and through the community you serve holding you in such high regard. Your bravery serves as a beacon to those that follow in your footsteps and honours the proud tradition of An Garda Síochána of being the first to respond without fear for their own safety, to our calls for help when our safety is threatened. It is because of you that, despite the many challenges that we face as a country we are still blessed to live in a democracy.

Thank you. 

ENDS 
 

Press Release 

Minister for Justice & Equality, Charlie Flanagan congratulates recipients of Scott Medal 

34 members of An Garda Síochána recognised for selfless bravery today

Today (Friday), the Minister for Justice and Equality participated in the Scott Medal Award Ceremony at the Garda College, Templemore where the selfless bravery of 34 members of An Garda Síochána were recognised with the award of Scott Medals and Garda Commissioner commendations. 

Speaking at the event the Minister said that the awarding of the Scott Medals was “evidence, if any was needed, that the proud tradition of bravery and selflessness within An Garda Síochána lives on. There is no doubt that it requires courage and personal resolve to serve as a member of An Garda Síochána. It is a fact that the men and women of An Garda Síochána, every single day put themselves in harm’s way in order that we may go about our lawful business and enjoy the right to live safely in our communities.  On hearing details of the heroic acts of personal bravery each of the recipients performed, willingly putting your own safety before others, I was deeply struck by the extraordinary courage displayed by so many members when faced with life and near life-threatening situations. 

Included in the list of recipients for a Gold Scott Medal were the late Garda Michael Clerkin, Sergeant James Cannon, Detective Garda Thomas F. Peters, Garda Gerry Bohan, Detective Garda Ben Thornton. Garda Clerkin and his colleagues were the victims of a bomb at a booby trapped premises in Garryhinch, Portarlington, Co Laois in 1976. They had been lured to the location on foot of an anonymous telephone call reporting a plan to kidnap and kill the Minister’s late father who at that time was the T.D. for the Constituency of Laois Offaly.

Recalling this event the Minister said “It is a deeply personal and poignant moment for me to be here today as Minister for Justice and Equality for the posthumous award of a Gold Scott Medal to Garda Michael Clerkin and to award the Gold Scott Medal to his four colleagues. I have never forgotten their courage and selflessness on that fateful night and I feel enormously privileged to be here today, 41 years later as Minister for Justice and Equality, when their bravery and sacrifice is being recognised by the award of a Gold Scott medal.

The late Garda Tony Golden whose life was cruelly taken on 11 October 2015 was also awarded a Gold Medal. Paying tribute to Garda Golden, the Minister said that “Tony’s generosity and commitment to helping others stand in stark contrast to the manner of his callous and cowardly murder.  In his life and in his work, Garda Tony Golden typified the values that characterise what is best about An Garda Síochána – unstinting commitment to family, community and country.”

Note to Editors 

History of Scott Medal 
In 1923, the then Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, the late General Eoin O ‘Duffy met Colonel Walter Scott, an Honorary Commissioner of the New York City Police and a well know philanthropist. 

Colonel Scott expressed his wish to assist in some way with what was, at the time, the World’s youngest Police Force, namely An Garda Síochána.  He presented to An Garda Síochána a one thousand dollar gold bond, the interest from which would pay, in perpetuity for a Gold Medal. 

The one condition that Colonel Walter Scott attached to the award of the Scott Medal in 1923 was as follows: – 

“No action, however heroic, will merit the award of the Scott Medal unless it takes the shape of an act of personal bravery, performed intelligently in the execution of duty as imminent risk to the life of the doer and with full previous knowledge of the risk involved”. 

In 1925, Colonel Scott presented to An Garda Síochána a further 500 dollar bond to provide Silver and Bronze medals to be presented to the members who during the year performed similar acts in the execution of duty but with less risk to their lives. 

Scott Medal Recipients 

Incident at Mullach Alainn, Omeath, Co. Louth on  11th October, 2015 
Garda Anthony Golden, R.I.P. 
29909L 
Omeath Garda Station 
Gold Medal Recipient 
        
Garda Gary O’Callaghan 
23353F 
Omeath Garda Station 
Silver Medal 

Armed Robbery and discharge of firearms at North Cumberland Street on 1st September, 1987 
Detective Garda Dominick Hutchin 
18182L 
Fitzgibbon Street Garda Station 
Gold Medal Recipient 

Garryhinch Bombing, Portarlington 15th October, 1976 
Garda Michael Clerkin, R.I.P. 
18189G 
Portarlington Garda Station 
Gold Medal Recipient 

Sergeant James Cannon 
12695M 
Portarlington Garda Station 
Gold Medal Recipient 

Detective Garda Thomas F. Peters 
13164D 
Portlaoise Garda Station 
Gold Medal Recipient 

Garda Gerry Bohan 
19244K 
Portarlington Garda Station 
Gold Medal Recipient 

Detective Garda Ben Thornton 
16039C 
Portlaoise Garda Station 
Gold Medal Recipient 

Unlawful discharge of Firearm and Sudden Death on 30th January, 2012 
Sergeant Deborah Marsh 
00826E 
Tipperary Garda Station 
Silver Medal Recipient 

Garda Gerard Brassil 
24939C 
Newport Garda Station 
Silver Medal Recipient 

Incident at Leinster House, Dublin on 29th April, 2014 
Garda Dwayne Conlon 
31021B 
Pearse Street Garda Station 
Bronze Medal Recipient 

Apprehension of a Dangerous Criminal on 30th May, 2014 
D/Garda George McGuffin 
25001E 
Harcourt Square 
Bronze Medal Recipient 

Serious Traffic Accident on 18th April, 2014 
Garda Michael Twomey 
27625A 
Anglesea Street Garda Station 
Bronze Medal Recipient 

Arrest of Armed Raider on 22nd May, 2014 
Garda Brendan O’Toole 
30847A 
Rathmines Garda Station 
Bronze Medal Recipient 

Fire in Flat Complex Dublin City on 8th August, 2015 
Garda Diarmuid O’Donovan 
28741E 
Kevin Street Garda Station 
Bronze Medal Recipient 

Attempted Armed Robbery Clogherhead P.O. on 20th April, 2015 
Garda Patrick Carey 
24318C 
D.O.C.B. 
Bronze Medal Recipient 

Attempted Robbery at Paddy Power Bookmakers, Saggart, Co. Dublin on 6th July 2013 
Garda David Brennan 
28882K 
Clondalkin Garda Station 
Bronze Medal Recipient 

Commendation Recipients 

Road Traffic Accident on 9th September, 2012 
Garda Robert Fitzsimons, 27753C                 
Nenagh Garda Station 
1st Class Commendation 
    
Disarming of Armed Culprit on 8th September, 2012 
Garda Robert Fitzsimons, 27753C                 
Nenagh Garda Station 
1st Class Commendation 

R/Garda Mark Spain, 80732L                         
Nenagh Garda Station 
1st Class Commendation 

House Fire on 24th August, 2014 
Garda Gerard Goldrick, 28448C                 
Kells Garda Station 
1st Class Commendation 

Attempted Robbery on 12th November, 2012 
Garda Joseph Gavin, 32046C                         
Mountjoy Garda Station 
1st Class Commendation 

Garda Conor Mackey, 33040L                 
Mountjoy Garda Station 
1st Class Commendation 

Garda Ciaran Kavanagh, 32341A                 
Mountjoy Garda Station 
1st Class Commendation 

Armed Robbery on 16th May, 2013 
Garda David Brady, 32768K                         
Rathfarnham Garda Station 
2nd Class Commendation                 

Garda Dara Kelly, 34827K                         
Rathfarnham Garda Station 
1st Class Commendation 

Siege, Bailieboro, Co. Cavan on 5th September, 2013 
Garda Thomas Fay, 20879E                         
Bailieboro Garda Station 
1st Class Commendation 

Incident involving a Firearm at Jobstown, Tallaght on 25th March, 2014 
Garda Enda Daly, 30123L                                 
Tallaght Garda Station 
1st Class Commendation 

Garda Stephen Coller, 29871K                                 
Tallaght Garda Station 
1st Class Commendation 

Evacuation of 8 People from fire at Greenhills Court on 26 March, 2015 
Detective Garda Kieran McGrath, 27135G                         
Tallaght Garda Station 
1st Class Commendation 

Garda Chris O Leary, 32876F                                 
Tallaght Garda Station 
1st Class Commendation 

Garda Colin Hetherington, 31036M                         
Tallaght Garda Station 
1st Class Commendation 

Garda Kevin Joyce, 27433L 
Templemore Garda Station 
1st Class Commendation 

Garda Eric O Sullivan, 32682H 
Mooncoin Garda Station 
2nd Class Commendation 

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