Speech by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, Garda Passing out Parade, Garda College, Templemore
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Commissioner, Minister Flanagan, distinguished guests and - our special guests of honour – the families of the newest members of An Garda Síochána and of course, our new Gardaí.
This is a significant day in your lives and a significant day in the life of the State. So I am honoured to share it with you.
An Garda Síochána has been our civil guard, our first line of defence for almost 100 years, protecting and serving our citizens, our communities, and our country since the foundation of the State.
Those who put on the uniform are called to perform the highest service in the land.
It is a responsibility you have willingly accepted and we thank you for it.
In 1922 the first Garda Commissioner, Michael Staines, predicted that the success of An Garda Síochána would not depend on ‘force of arms or numbers’. He believed the Gardaí would only succeed if you had ‘moral authority as servants of the people’.
That is what your uniform represents. And you demonstrate your moral authority every day in the countless acts of courage you perform, in the hope you bring to communities, and in the fear you instil in criminals and wrongdoers.
There is no greater responsibility and no higher honour.
Over the past 100 years, An Garda Síochána have taken on organised crime and dark forces which threatened our State.
You have been the first call for those in distress.
The first ones to respond to a crisis.
And the last ones to leave.
88 Gardaí have paid the ultimate price, a roll of honour that tells the history of our country far more eloquently than any history book.
We honour that history - we honour that service – we honour the uniform - by making sure that in every generation we do whatever is necessary to protect and enhance the moral authority of the force. To reform and modernise.
Today we are in a very strong position and that is for three reasons.
First, we are increasing resources and investing more in the work that you do. In the most recent Budget we allocated a record figure of almost €1.8 billion for the Gardaí, and this will be spent on your ICT programme, your Transport Fleet, and your Building programme. It will be spent on ensuring that we have more of you – by the end of this year we will have almost 600 more Gardaí on the streets than the same time last year. And that number will continue to grow.
Second, we have in Commissioner Harris a leader with the experience and the determination to drive reform and modernisation. His primary focus is to protect the public and his members. From my meetings with him, I know he is determined to make swift progress on the issues that have been raised by Gardaí - including rosters, uniforms and appropriate resources, such as ICT - to help you do your job.
Third, with the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland we have a new framework for policing, security and community safety that will deliver:
• better service to communities;
• a better organization to work in;
• a better framework for oversight and scrutiny of policing; and,
• an enhanced structure for national security.
The Commission – and Justice Charleton – have highlighted the need for:
· a culture in which people at all levels of the organisation, without fear or favour, share ideas on opportunities and problems;
· a culture of shared accountability;
· a culture in which no-one ever hesitates in to speaking truth to power and just as important to peers.
I hope that in the years to come you will look back on today with pride that you were the recruits who entered at that moment of change. You embraced and owned the new culture.
Loyalty is one of the greatest virtues.
Your loyalty is not to the person in the uniform. It is to the uniform. To all that it stands for.
The greatest loyalty is in providing a solid blue wall in support of justice.
It is the best way of honouring your past and the men and women who have worn that uniform.
In the coming days you will start working with local communities - one of the most important aspects of police work. You will get an opportunity to get to know the local community, build relationships, and give reassurance by your very presence.
As you embark on your careers, remember that many people will spend the most difficult times of their life in your presence. In the aftermath of a sudden bereavement, a mental health crisis, or during the anxious wait for a missing loved one, they will turn to you.
This is a huge responsibility and one I know you are ready for.
You have the power to make a positive impact.
You have the power to save lives.
You also have the power to change lives.
The future is in your hands.
I wish you well in your careers, and I hope you have an enjoyable day with your families and friends.