'We do it because we love it' - More than 1,200 go behind the scenes at one of the country's busiest garda stations
MORE THAN 1,200 people got a behind the scenes glimpse of how one of the country’s busiest garda stations operates over the weekend with children and adults of all ages turning out.
Henry Street garda station, the divisional headquarters for the Limerick county had specialist units including the Armed Support Unit (ASU) on hand to show children and adults how they are equipped to police the city.
In total gardai gave 41 tours of the garda headquarters, initially having expected to do up to six, with Supt Derek Smart saying they were “not at all” expecting the turnout they got.
The initiative, part of the city’s Culture Night on Friday gave the local community and insight into the different tasks gardai in Limerick carry out on daily basis.
"We're based in the divisional headquarters in the centre of Limerick city so people pass by on a daily, on their way home from work or whatever so we decided to open the doors to see what happens. It was a good night, we expected about five of six groups but in the end we got 41 tours and over 1,200 people which is phenomenal.
"We brought people around to show them how the station works, where we do briefings before each tour, the control room where we have the camera system, and the custody suites to show how we treat people in custody on a daily basis.
“There are a lot of people in dire need with mental health problems and all different issues, so it was to show them how we treat people and how we carry out our duties,” Supt Smart told Independent.ie
Specialist units including armed officers and the dog unit were also on hand, while the senior officer said that gardai were attempting to get a message across to both children and adults.
"Several specialist units were on show on the day including the scenes of crime units, the Armed Support Unit and the Dog Unit, while the community engagement officials were also present.
“The key message for adults was that, all the briefings I give are based on the calls they've given over the previous 24 hours. If people are not making calls looking for assistance or reporting because 'sure look the guards are busy' then I can't direct patrols to that part of the city. People need to report these things and that is the main message we are looking to get across for adults
Supt Smart, who has 29 years service with the force, said that he was "not at all" expecting such a large response from the local community, with over 40 tours catering for children and adults of all ages.
He also explained how a life size picture of the late Det Gda Jerry McCabe, shot dead by the IRA in 1996, is displayed in the parade room to emphasise the dangers of the job gardai face.
"The whole idea of the parade room, all groups whether its units on the early, the late or the night, it was about what duties we are expected to carry out.
"On my left hand side there is a life size picture of Jerry McCabe.
"The picture is there for a reason, it's a very dangerous job we do; very much at times it’s life-threatening. On a daily basis I say to my members that they need to be careful and keep and eye on yourself.
"We're lost friends and lost colleagues in the fire services and in road traffic collisions over the last number of years and at all times, to anyone in the frontline, we are saying just be careful and make sure you're on solid ground.
"It's a hard job, but we do it because we love it."