Thursday 29 September 2016

'Just a Garda' doesn't have a bubble to retreat to when going gets tough

Published 19/10/2015 | 02:30

Tony Golden: Just a dad. Just a husband. Just a Garda.
Tony Golden: Just a dad. Just a husband. Just a Garda.

It was a Friday night and there was danger in the air. The men were drunk or drugged and the women were driving them on. Why this was happening I really do not know.

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The drunk and doped men began to fight. It was vicious. There were no rules here. Kicks and headbutts had blood spurting and as one lad fell to the ground from a vicious punch, I could see the eyes rolling around in his head. I thought he was dead. You could hear the dull thud as his skull cracked off the pavement. More blood.

I called the gardaí. There were a couple more people on the phone too. My guess is they were also dialling 999.

For our own safety, we had to step back. Our consciences were clear, in our minds. We delegated to the police. It was their problem now.

She was maybe 25 at most. Even with her peaked cap, you could see she was a pretty girl and always at times like this dads think of their own daughters.

I could see her draw a big breath and in she went to the middle of the brawl. They were big men, the fighters. Very big. The drugs gave them the kind of crazy strength. She was just a girl. Not just a girl, just a garda.

That deep breath was a 'here goes' breath. In she went with her two male colleagues. She was shouting "Stop!" and "There's no one dead!" and somehow her voice and the presence of her colleagues seemed to bring some order. One of the animals involved in the fight didn't stop. He made for the young girl. 'Just a Girl' caught him with her baton on his thigh.

Down he went screaming and roaring about police brutality. Maybe he wasn't going to hit her but what was 'Just a Girl' to do? She had no choice in the circumstances.

Two of the fighters were handcuffed and put in the back of the police van. It took six gardaí to subdue one of them. There was a garda each holding a kicking leg and two gardaí held on to his flailing hands. Another kept his pals at bay.

'Just a Girl' opened the door of the police van. The crazed man managed to kick her in the abdomen, but she stuck to her task and soon enough he was decommissioned.

'Just a Girl' was hurt, though. And I thought: "I hope she's not expecting." She could have been pregnant, I feared.

The years passed by and 'Just a Girl' became 'Just a Woman'. She has kids now. And then one day I heard she was badly beaten up in the line of duty. 'Just a Woman' was out of work for several months. But now she's back on the beat.

She wouldn't let the bad lads get the better of her. But why did she come back to work? It's not just a job for 'Just a Woman', is it? She's in it to make a difference and even though there will be many defeats, the occasional victory keeps her going.

And it's not all about downing thugs either. Most of the work of the gardaí is done on the quiet. A word here and a warning there. Young boys and girls are often given a chance when notebooks are kept closed.

This isn't just a once-off. I'm a barman and I see trouble on the streets all the time. But it's late at night when you, the decent people, are asleep in your beds.

Take a drive around your city or town centre after 2am on any given weekend and you will see what our gardai have to face into. Please do this. Do it for 'Just a Girl'. You'll be safe enough, once you stay in the car and keep the doors locked. And remember 'Just a Girl' didn't have that bubble to retreat back into when the going gets tough.

There is a terrible and destructive binge-drinking culture in our country and, bad as the consequences are, the drug-taking is now epidemic. It usually takes official figures at least two years to catch up with the reality on the ground.

Attitudes can change in just a couple of years. Take it from me as absolutely true that a very high percentage of 14-16-year-olds are on drugs, mostly some form of marijuana. I would go so far as to say that in many areas of our country, a majority of kids have tried drugs.

And while you may say "hash isn't too bad", the stuff they sell now is isn't grown by some hippie in a remote place near the coast.

Very often, the drugs are genetically modified. And the drugs aren't being sold by reputable pharmacists with the welfare of the client in mind. Most kids will go on to try something stronger.

Ireland is in the middle of the most deadly, pervasive attack on the health of our nation. Young lives are being ruined by the day and it's getting worse.

And it's 'Just a Girl' who will have to face the consequences, for us, who dial-a-cop.

'Just a Boy 'threw his cap in the air when he graduated from The Garda Training College in Templemore. 'Just a Boy' was a Garda. Proudest day of his life.

It was a domestic. A battered wife needed him to go along with her to the old family home to collect some personal stuff. Another day in the life.

She was shot by her ex and the young lad who threw his cap in Templemore was murdered by him.

Tony Golden is his name and he died for Ireland last week in Omeath.

Just a dad.

Just a husband.

Just a Garda.

Irish Independent

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