Check Against Delivery

Monday 2nd February 2015

Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Commissioner, Distinguished guests, members of An Garda Síochána,

In all the controversies of the last couple of years, it would be easy to miss one abiding fact about An Garda Síochána.

Ireland's police service is a magnet employer. When so many applications are received for places in training and education for any post, you can figure that the post is seen as worth getting.

Of course it is. Those of you already in training and those of you at the starting blocks know that a career in An Garda Síochána can literally take you anywhere:

Into a lake to search for a missing person.

Into a unit trusted to cope with civic unrest.

Handling a drug-detecting dog.

Investigating international criminal activity.

Investigating child sexual abuse and cyber-crime.

Fighting international terrorism.

You also know that you will face different tasks, different faces, every single day of your work.

That matters.

According to workplace research, boredom at work is one of the worst things a worker can experience. And - while police work requires a lot of paperwork - not many guards complain of boredom.

I have no doubt just as the huge numbers of applicants indicates - out of which you came to the top - that those numbers also indicate an understanding of the importance of what you will do.

You will protect citizens.

You will reduce re-offending.

You will be embedded in the community.

You will prevent crime.

and - one of the most important tasks -

you will rescue crime victims from despondency and despair.

You will also experience criticism. Right and proper -- if you, or the service, fail to deliver the service to which the citizens are entitled.

Some of that criticism won't be fair. At the moment, for example, An Garda Síochána is at the receiving end of a lot of general criticism it does not deserve. That criticism will inevitably get to you. Don't let it. General criticism that paints every garda (or every politician!) as bad is just plain wrong and must be rejected.

But we all need to go further on this. It's more than about rejecting invalid criticism. It's about recognising where the service is at, in this year of its history.

It's at the beginning of a new phase. Your recruitment is a clear indicator of that. As Minister for Justice, I am determined to usher in many more such positive steps, to support the men and women of An Garda Síochána; doing a complex and constantly evolving task, providing an invaluable contribution to Irish life.

You now belong to a service on the cusp of an unprecedented step forward.

I believe the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste will agree with me when I say that the Government is clear that the Commissioner is determined to develop An Garda Síochána into a service that measures up to the best police services in the world.

Every one of you will have a part to play in making that happen.

It will call for courage from each of you.

When we think of the courage Gardaí need to show, we automatically think of the days when a gun is turned on you, a knife raised at you or a car driven at you.

But courage is called for without any physical threat.

Courage can be called for in the middle of a quite normal day.

The courage to say "No" if you believe the instruction is wrong.

The courage to cry halt to a practice that may have been going on forever, but that should stop right there and then.

None of that will be a surprise to you. You would not have embarked on the difficult endeavour of becoming one of the very few accepted for training if you were not familiar with the challenges of the job.

You know that you will build on a wonderful tradition, and you also know that the trust of Irish society will be won - anew - each and every day by each and every one of you.

You can be sure that this Government is committed to putting in place, and where necessary reforming, the organisation, structures, practices and systems to support you to effectively deliver the best possible policing and security services for our communities and our country.

As new recruits you will undergo a rigorous training programme under the direction of Chief Superintendent McMahon and Superintendent Patrick McCabe and all the staff here in the College. This training will provide you with the necessary foundation to allow you to progress and develop as Gardaí upholding the finest principles of honesty, accountability, respect and professionalism.

The hope is that when you look back at your time in An Garda Síochána, way, way down the line, you do it with pride - pride that you were part of a trusted organisation that was pivotal to neighbourhoods, communities and the nation.

That you look back with affection and nostalgia when you think of the teams you worked with and the mentors who helped you develop.

And, above all, that you can put your hand on your heart and say "I served, as a sworn member of An Garda Síochána, with energy, commitment and passion. I never crossed an ethical line. And I never stayed silent when someone else did."

On behalf of the Taoiseach and the Government, I congratulate you on your massive achievement and wish you health, happiness and fulfillment within An Garda Síochána.