Thursday 20 July 2017

Bullying in garda is 'endemic' and it starts in Templemore, sergeant claims

Gardaí call for reform in dealing with complaints of harassment

Liam Corcoran
Liam Corcoran
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

Bullying in the gardaí is “endemic” and it begins from the moment you enter Templemore training college, a sergeant has claimed.

Sgt Liam Corcoran, who is based in Cashel, Co Tipperary, said issues surrounding bullying  in the force need to be addressed.

The officer, with 33 years experience, described his own experience in the force and explained how he is now using that to help other gardaí who have been subjected to similar ordeals.

“The very first night I joined the guards, back in November 93, I remember a group of 45 of us all very proud men - there were no women at the time - came in and we were brought into this hall and for the next hour or two I felt and still feel to this day, our self esteem was slowly worn down.

“We’d come from a feeling of virtuous almost, now we were in the gardaí and then slowly we were questioned about our body shapes our hair cuts our accents where we came from and slowly ridiculed."

He continued: “Whatever self esteem we had coming in was certainly gone and certainly my experience of Templemore training for 22 weeks was a fear of doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing and a deep exhalation of relief when we left the place.”

But for Sgt Corcoran, and many others, the harassment did not stop once they left the Tipperary training college.

Speaking at the annual Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) conference in Killarney, Co Kerry Sgt Corcoran said he was bullied throughout his career.

Asked if it is endemic within the association, Sgt Corcoran explained that he has often tried to rationalise it.

“I feel it’s just endemic because our way of dealing with the processes in the gardaí, there is a policy of harassment and bullying that we deal with but the onus is generally on the complainant to make the case and that is added pressure.”

He said that it takes huge bravery to come forward in the first place but then the victim has to go and justify their actions.

“And then in the end, if there is a sanction, the sanction doesn’t stand against the bully, if you understand me,” he claimed. “The policy doesn’t require it to be carried out, so it’s almost like it collapses in on itself and people feel even more put upon that they went through the process in the first place with no outcome that they can move on or that they can feel justified.”

Sgt Corcoran now acts as an advocate for those who are victims of bullying and he explains that this is difficult because members are “very, very slow” to speak out about their personal experience.

“They feel that they’ve let themselves down, they feel that they are weak of lesser persons. So it’s a very demanding role and it needs to be addressed.”

He said that the typical complaints that members have include:

“General put-downs, being made to feel inadequate, made to feel that they’re not able to do their job and why on God’s earth were they promoted in the first place?

“That is a common trend. But it can be about failure to make promotion, it can be about simple things like being passed over for course, things like that, it’s a wide range.”

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