Saturday 17 February 2018

Kevin Myers: Garda Ciaran Jones gave his life for Ireland

IT was on the last weekend of autumn, the first days of winter, as an evil and ferocious monsoon lashed the bleak mud of the Wicklow hills, that a young off-duty garda, Ciaran Jones, freely went out and gave his life, so that others might live. Of course, he did not deliberately seek death, but no-one going out on the N81 on Monday night could have been in any doubt, with the dark cataracts rampaging down the steep slopes on either side, that real peril was abroad. Nonetheless, Garda Jones battled the elements, for no remotely possible selfish consideration of his own; no overtime, no begrudging acceptance of the roster, no eager clock-watching marked his last moments on this earth. The safety of others alone drove him to his doom.

This was Ciaran's choice, and in making it, he embodied the best and finest traditions of An Garda Siochana since the force was formed in 1922. The twenty-strong committee charged by Michael Collins with creating a new police force had at least 13 former RIC men on it. Of nine senior officers initially selected to lead the first Civic Guard, seven were former RIC men. They saw their duty quite simply. It was, even at the height of a civil war, to create a force that would heal. Which is why Eoin O'Duffy -- at this point not the opera-bouffe caricature of later years -- appointed ex-RIC men as civilian advisers. His deputy, Patrick Walsh, also ex-RIC, wrote the new code-book. And quite wonderfully, the new force then went unarmed among the armed factions of a divided Ireland: even in war, a people's police.

So the instincts of policing and of service run deep in the Irish blood. They have surfaced wherever the Irish have emigrated: hence all those American and Canadian and Australian police forces, decked with Murphys, Connollys, Quinns O'Sullivans and O'Neills. The fenian tradition, which is so lauded in the official narrative of Irishness, actually occupies a couple of days of annual ceremonial; but for the rest of the year, it is business as usual, as we accept the rule of law and expect that law to be impartially and honestly enforced.

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