Address by Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD on the occasion of the Garda Passing Out Ceremony
Garda College Templemore, 23 April 2015
Commissioner, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen and of course, the most important people here today, our new members of An Garda Síochána.
You’re the most important because of what you have achieved and what you will achieve.
You came through a rigorous selection process – you were the ones selected from 25,000 applicants.
You are coming through a new BA degree programme.
You’re the first group to be attested as members of An Garda Síochána since 2009.
It would be remiss of me not to mention your families and friends who have helped you to reach this very special day. They have stood by and supported you though the last few months and in fact over your lifetime. Many of them are here on what’s a very proud day for you and for them. How about you leading a round of applause to express your gratitude for them, right now?
Leading that round of applause was easy. Unlike the careers ahead of you. You are going to encounter the toughest members of our society, some without any conscience at all. You have chosen to put yourself in danger so others will feel safe and that is totally admirable. Now you’ll go out into your communities and do the very best you can in a sometimes dangerous environment.
Each and every one of you has an opportunity and an obligation to write the next phase in the history of An Garda Síochána. That’s important. The controversies of the last couple of years have taken some of the shine off the great work done each and every day by individual Gardaí. The Government and An Garda Síochána have put new structures, practices and systems in place to prevent that in future.
The Government has put in place new structures, practices and systems to free up An Garda Síochána to overcome weaknesses and build on its strengths.
We are, in fact, standing on the cusp of a new era in policing in this country – and you’ll be the pioneers of that new era. You will be the shapers of the new culture, the new understanding of what the Gardaí are all about.
You will do that in the context of new oversight bodies. In meetings with the Chair of the new Policing Authority, I have stressed that the Authority must set out to improve the performance of An Garda Síochána, rather than setting out to catch the service out. They are there to help you to be the best that you can be.
Each and every one of you will have the opportunity to make a real difference – if you set out to be the best that you can be. You have already proven your academic capability. The real test, will become evident in the approach you take in performing your every day tasks. The routine. And the non-routine. How you demonstrate discipline, how you take instruction, how you work in a team. And above all, how you demonstrate honesty, integrity, sensitivity, accountability, respect and professionalism. This job is not about the uniform or any perceived power a uniform may hold. It is about serving the people of Ireland to the best of your ability in a way you would like to be served yourself.
I have no doubt that many of you will rise through the ranks. As you go through your career, I hope that you can show strength of character and generosity of spirit to support and respect those who will follow you.
You have joined An Garda Síochána at a great time. A great time. Many of you waited through the years when no recruitment was happening and deserve a special pat on the back for hanging in when you must have had doubts. Recruitment and investment have both started up again. Now, let’s be clear. This Government has an enormous commitment to An Garda Síochána.
Does that mean you or your colleagues or the Commissioner will be absolutely satisfied with the level of Government investment?
Of course you won’t be. It will not happen over night, but I can promise that the service will be transformed, over the next couple of years, in people, technology and strategic direction. With your help, An Garda Síochána will continue to be a magnet employer and a hugely valued presence in every community.
For today, I again congratulate you on this wonderful achievement. I hope you have a great career and make a real difference to the lives of those you come in contact with. Remember it is not the rank you reach that denotes success but what you do in each rank that changes peoples lives for the better.
I wish you the best of luck and wisdom in your career and I hope that you all have a great day with your families and friends.