Politics and policing: the difficult relationship between the left wing and gardaí

By Red Hugh

Last week in the Dublin District Court Judge Michael Coghlan upheld the decision of Chief Superintendent Orla McPartlin to refuse an Anti Austerity Alliance councillor a permit for house-to-house and street collections in Dublin.

The senior garda refused the permit because, she said, she believed the money raised could be used to encourage, directly or indirectly, the commission of unlawful acts.

The Anti Austerity Alliance is a totally legitimate political party – it has TDs who sit in Dail Eireann – but it seems the gardai get to decide which members can fund raise and which cannot.

While this is totally legitimate from a legal standpoint – the court has said so – it raises, I would suggest, interesting questions about the gardai’s role in political democracy.

This, of course, is just the latest incident in a somewhat fractious relationship between the left wing in this country and the Gardai.

If you recall some years back  TD, Claire Daly, was arrested and handcuffed at the side of the road for alleged drink driving. How many TD’s in the history of the State has that happened to? None? One/two? It was subsequently found that she was totally in the clear.

The incident at Jobstown involving the Tanaiste, Joan Burton, is also highly controversial on several levels but seeing that people are before the courts it would be inappropriate if not illegal to comment.

Without question the first big fissure between the Gardai and the left leaning members of the community began more than a decade ago in the ‘Shell to Sea’ campaign in Mayo.

The behaviour of some of the protestors was not exactly in the mode of Martin Luther King but around 130 complaints were also made about the heavy handedness of the gardai.

If anyone wants to refresh their memories there are videos of some of these confrontations on YouTube so you can make up your own minds.


The relationship between a police force and the people being policed is a vital one in any society.

In Ireland our Gardai have always been part of the community but there does seems to be a growing alienation.

Before it gets worse maybe we should ‘go back to the future’ and start getting gardai  into our towns and villages again.

As an old cop I knew well once told me when you know the Garda’s first name and he knows yours it makes for a much better relationship.

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