Diarmaid Ferriter: Times may have changed, but respect for the gardai hasn't
EXACTLY 91 years ago, in January 1922, Michael Staines, a pro-Treaty Dublin TD, was appointed acting chairman of the Police Organising Committee. Established to plan the formation of a police force for the new state, the committee prepared a blueprint for the setting up of a 'Civic Guard' and, in March 1922, Staines was appointed its commissioner. He began laying the foundation stones for the new force (subsequently in 1923 to become known as the Garda Siochana), but his appointment of several former Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) officers to senior positions created resentment and dissent from IRA elements who had joined, which became a mutiny in May 1922.
Staines lost control and was forced to flee police headquarters in Kildare, leaving it in the hands of mutineers at a time when civil war seemed imminent.
He regained command in mid-July, but only when the mutineers were promised an inquiry, and he never recovered effective authority. He relinquished his post in September, doing so on the basis that, as a TD, he was following a recommendation by the inquiry that the police should be divorced from politics.