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Bullying within the Gardai

category national | worker & community struggles and protests | opinion/analysis author Friday May 05, 2006 18:19author by Adam Lacey - Griffith College Dublinauthor email adamlacey at eircom dot net Report this post to the editors

An examination of what is being done regarding claims of consistent bullying within the ranks of our national police force

An investigation of government and Garda Siochana policies on bullying and harrassment within the Gardai

Bullies in Blue

Bullying, intimidation, sexual harassment and racism are all topics one would expect the Gardai Siochana to be dealing with every day. But one would hope that when it comes to these problems, they are not being perpetrated from within the ranks of our national police force on their fellow Gardai. But this is exactly what is going on in hundreds of police stations across the country.

Garda unions have, for some time, been claiming that bullying has spiralled out of control within the force, in the last year particularly, but these proclamations have been firmly rejected by Garda superiors. Garda Representative Association (GRA) president Dermot O'Donnell warned Justice Minister Michael McDowell at their annual conference last year that his organisation could no longer tolerate bullying of its members. Mr. O'Donnell quoted consultant psychiatrist Dr Michael Corry, who in 1993 set up a peer support group structure to deal with bullying in the force. Dr. Corry confirmed that bullying was one of the greatest sources of stress in the force. He added that it was "saddening to sit in front of fine men and women who have had their will and spirit systematically broken down by serial predatorial bullies".

At this time Dr.Corry had written a letter to the GRA because the number of Gardai still coming to him with complaints of harassment or bullying was so high. His letter was subsequently read out at the GRA conference in Tralee last April, with Mr. McDowell present. The Minister said Garda authorities told him there was no evidence to back the claims. He said the Gardai had a “comprehensive policy on issues relating to equality, bullying, harassment and sexual harassment.” The Garda Commissioner, he added, had directed the setting up of a working group (an internal group made up of middle to high- ranking Gardai) to review the policy. Mr. O'Donnell said Gardai would not have the right to complain against another Garda to a proposed Ombudsman's Commission, and said there should be an independent (i.e. non-Garda) forum for airing any grievances.

But despite all this attention and talk last year, nothing is being done about it. In December 2005, a 43 year-old Garda quit the force because of bullying. His account of how he was treated by a number of co-workers and superiors is shocking. This man, who had served over 20 years in the Gardai and had a wife and three children, spoke of initial bullying beginning when he completed a mediation course. At first, the harassment took the form of his station sergeant making facial gestures every time he saw him, or undermining his work at every available opportunity, but after making complaints he found himself to be the subject of ridicule. He was told to use the Internal Grievance Procedure, a procedure outlined in a lengthy document the Gardai have prepared to deal with such matters. This proved to make matters worse. The Chief dealing with his complaint, a Chief this procedure asks you to avail of and confide in, began to call his house at all hours. Patrol cars would drive by his house repeatedly when he was home. His pay envelopes and other post were opened and hand-delivered to him. Eventually he had no choice but to retire from his job and his case is currently being heard in the High Court.

If a member of the Garda is being bullied or harassed, research shows that their options are limited. The Health and Safety Authority state that their ‘remit on bullying is a policy one.’ They do not, it continues, have an ‘interventionist role’ but can assist in terms of policy and management of the issue generally at an organisational level. This seems impotent at best. Seeing that our Minister for Justice refuses to even acknowledge that there is a problem in this area, we turn next to the document mentioned earlier, the one that contains the Internal Grievance Procedure and guidelines on the steps a Garda should take if he/she finds themselves to be the victim of bullying. This lengthy document repeatedly stresses that the matter can be (should be?) dealt with internally and seems to deter one from taking any complaint beyond Garda ranks at all. It also mentions that if an internal investigation is unsatisfactory, then perhaps the complainant could go to the Equality Authority ‘without involvement of legal processes.’ Emphasis is given to the ‘conscientious and sensitive approach’ supervisors will have regarding complaints, therefore avoiding the necessity for ‘recourse to the formal procedure outlined above’.

The myopic view of bullying within their own ranks by the Gardai was evident at last year’s Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors meeting, when Sgt. Willie Gleeson, treasurer of the AGSI national executive said: “We have a few cases in county Cork in relation to bullying but there is a structure there to deal with it.” The harassment is simply not being acknowledged by the Gardai or by the Department of Justice. As Dr. Corry says: “Bullying in the Gardai is ubiquitous at the moment. It’s a huge problem. Because I do a lot of work with prison officers and the Gardai, I would say they are the ones that get bullied the most.”

The hierarchical nature of the Gardai means that bullies can give orders, designed to upset the victim. Also under the Garda chain of command system, superiors can read open letters from the chief medical officer before they are handed to their subordinates. In May 2005, Mr. McDowell was asked if his attention had been drawn to claims by the president of the GRA that insidious bullying is rife within the Gardai. McDowell said that he had been advised by the Gardai authorities that there is no evidence to support the claims made by the president of the GRA. Following this the Minister admitted that he had received anecdotal evidence of at least one Garda who had committed suicide because of bullying, which mirrors the suicide last month of a female Metropolitan police officer in London after she had been repeatedly harassed at her station by colleagues. Mary T. O’Connor, whose book ‘On the Beat’ chronicles her Garda career and the sexual harassment she suffered during it amongst other things, was the subject of scorn at the hands of Gardai, both on the phone and in the audience, when she appeared on RTE’s Late Late Show to discuss her experiences as a Garda. Irate Gardai accused her of breaking a trust by discussing what she experienced in her, now former, career, again highlighting the attempt to keep everything within their ranks by the police force.

But if the Gardai Siochana refuse to be held accountable when they’re in the wrong, and they continue to perpetuate this web of cover-ups and deceit regarding what really goes on behind the closed doors of the local Garda station, how can the Gardai expect the Irish public to respect and have faith in them? Procedures are needed to deal comprehensively, and swiftly, with incidents of bullying in the force. The lack of a suitable external investigation unit is a situation that needs to be rectified. Confidence in the Gardai and the manner in which it performs its duties is a cornerstone of our democratic society. Because of this, the Irish public must have absolute trust and confidence in the Gardai Siochana. It is problems such as those highlighted in this piece that need to be resolved quickly and permanently to help the Gardai regain the support and trust of the people of Ireland.

author by Seán Ryanpublication date Fri May 05, 2006 21:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

An educational article.

I think part of the solution to this problem is in the article.

The power a bully is able to exert is controlled and confined by the apparentness of the act of bullying itself. Ie. if the knowledge of the bullying is confined to the victim and the bully's fans the maximum ammount of power can be exercised over the victim. The more common the knowledge becomes about who the bully is, the less s/he has power over his/her victim.

It's more complex than this, but in general terms it's correct and if used as a tool by those who are bullied and those who witness bullying, it can erradicate bullying or at least marginalise and identify those responsible.

That lady on the Late Late show evoked a strong response from the Gardaí and one gets the feeling that this response would be seen to have more sympathies for bullies than their victims.

Making the knowledge public is the answer. Courts, tribunals, ombudsmen, etc. all fine but only address identification of the problem. In the end, even using the just mentioned responses, public opinion and knowledge will fix these issues.

To use a government term. 'Fast track' the problem. There are many ways for whistleblowers to publish anonymoulsy. This site is one of the best examples and if the issue is important enough (and in this case it is) it will get into the mainstream.

I cannot seriously contemplate any Irish citizen joining the force to cause misery. Yet it is misery that nonetheless causes the Gardaí in general to be seen in such a poor light in this country.

Allow me to say and not for the first time either, that torture is illegal in this country. It is also illegal to facilitate it either by deliberate acts of omission or by compliance.

For those who are tortured within the force - make it public, it's both your duty to the public and yourself.


author by Justin Morahan - Peace Peoplepublication date Sun May 07, 2006 00:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Only when whistle-blowers like the author tell more will there be any chance of rectifying this insidious problem.

The so-called loyalty demanded by members of the Garda is a perversion of justice and of everything that is good and fair. It is corruption at the heart of power. It is insidious and dangerous.

Organizations such as the Garda Síochána, Prison Officers, the Army and paramilitary groups can be breeding grounds for the very worst type of human behaviour including bullying. This is because of the false "loyalty" required and often praised, encouraged or even demanded at the highest levels, that wrongdoing by a colleague be not revealed at any cost, including perjury, no matter how bad that wrongdoing is. The brave souls who break ranks are isolated (bullied) and reviled until they have to leave their employment.

Other groups such as enclosed orders, organizations that demand obedience, and professional groups, schools and hospitals or high pressure companies can be equally insidious. In the case of the Gardaí however, as they have been given very great power with which they are supposed to guard people, if bullying is rampant within the force they will be inclined to close their eyes to bullying that is rampant in other places including the Family. The very power they have been given will be used perversely to isolate and crush the victim within their own ranks.

History has shown how long it takes in groups such as the Army and Garda to bring insidious happening into the open. There is need for a Government that takes the whole issue of bullying seriously in all spheres of life from earliest school through the work place and afterward in homes for the elderly.

Procedures that work must be put in place. I don't see it as an issue on the programmes of any political party - and yet all of us know of the tragic consequences that result from this apathy toward a serious problem

author by bobbypublication date Sun May 07, 2006 01:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

bullying goes on in more organisations than the gardai, in fact it goes on in most schools and work places and within all classes and occupations, why do you expect a force with over 12,000 people not to have a problem that is widespread in other occupations, I know from personal experience the effects that bullying has and how serious it is, however in jobs like the military, police etc you have to have a rank structure and some people join these jobs and when they are asked by supervisers to do A,B or C which is their job anyway they only have to suggest or hint that they feel "bullied" and the senior ranks have to back off and the people who do what they are told end up doing the lazy persons work as well. I recently spoke to a senior army officer who told me that the rank structure in the army is practically a joke where some recruits tell officers to "fuck off" regularily and the officers back off cause of the threat of being accused of being a bully which would be career ending for them, meanwhile the real victims of bullying are often not being believed or supported beause of these lazy pricks who use bullying accusations to get out of what they are employed to do. Its happing in most jobs, cant see why the gardai are so special or is it that a story with the word garda in it seems to grab peoples attention, what about the health service, non national workers the list goes on. its an old story re heated again. give us something new and interesting

author by Seamus - Garda Siochanapublication date Mon May 08, 2006 01:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I agree with the main article about bullying in the Gardai. I am a Garda and have been bullied for 10 years but never complained about it until about four years ago.

I never made any formal complaint or anything as I did not want to get anyone in trouble. But its since then it has become much worse and I have been out sick a lot with depression and work related stress.
I feel ashamed about it as I often had periods of 5 or 6 years with not one day sick . Also my work has suffered as I can't concentrate and don't seem to have the mental energy to do anything too complex. I hate this effect too as I always prided myself on my work record and attention to detail.
Even at home things I once liked to do now don't seem to interest me at all.

The basic bullying in my case has been a combination of the following; exclusion, being constantly criticized, nit-picked, being undermined, sidelined, ignored, humiliated, passed over - gossip campaigns, and generally being made to feel useless and of no value or relevance.

The worst aspect of it is that no one believes you and I am always being told that there was nothing bad intended by it etc. I then hope it will stop but then it happens again and again and has the effect of wearing you down slowly so that soon you feel worthless and useless - just like they said you were.

I hope to take legal action over it soon as I dont have any confidence in the greviance procedure (even though that has to be used first - for legal reasons)

Its a shame the job has allowed this problem to become so serious ( I always thought it was only me who was being bullied) as the Garda Siochana is generally a good organisation and can provide a very fine career. I think back to my time before the bullying started and long for those happy days again. In my view policing is a noble and very rerwarding profession.

author by Justin Morahan - Peace Peoplepublication date Mon May 08, 2006 01:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Campaign against Bullying might be a help to the people above who are being bullied.

author by johnpublication date Mon May 08, 2006 14:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

so what are these individuals perpetrateing on the general public?

if they can get away with this in the force what are they getting away with at large.

look at the recent deaths of teenagers very very sad. we can no longer sit idley by,
and let these gaurds investigate themselves, it seems that only the most ruthless rise the ranks this is nbot a good position to take in the long run.

There are serious concerns if they want independent investigaters themselves but not for the general public

author by adam lacey - gcdpublication date Mon May 08, 2006 18:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

To the Garda who responded to my piece: If you wish to defeat these bullies, the thing to do is to tell your story to the public, which you are doing. Since it is a personal plight, anonymity is entirely understandable. If you want to tell your story to a wider audience in more detail, without giving your own or anyone else's name, contact me and an interview over the phone could be set up. The bigger the audience, and public response, the easier it is to fix the situation.Stories like these need to receive publicity. As for the person who wondered why choose Gardai as the example, given the power they have in this country, I think the organisation is very apt example to pick. Obviously other organisations have problems too, but none have the same influence on general society as our national police force.

author by special agent plodpublication date Fri May 19, 2006 21:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

the GRA are going to meet Mc Dowell & he's backing down on something or other.
The Afghans didn't meet Mc Dowell & he won't back down.
And the Morris tribunal has found that as well being bullied, Gardai have low morale and gay gardai can't marry in the state. But they do have good wages. Thats enough.

author by bullypublication date Fri May 19, 2006 21:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The brit army are now story number one.
in a shock decision, newly appointed UN special envoy for world chuminess Michael Mc Dowell, has ruled that off duty Brit soldiers will not be allowed to enter bars in Ballymena.
of course this story reflects our traditional intolerance and sectarian vibe.

author by Soldier Guy - Armypublication date Thu Nov 08, 2007 21:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In answer to the bully topics, that appears to be so widespread throughout the Garda and Military. I have many years of experience within the military and I have witness hundreds of people been bullied. One of the main reasons that bullying is widespread in the Defence Forces is because it was always there. From the highest ranking officer to the lowest private soldier.

What you have in the Defence Forces is one large body of people who start first as a recruit / cadet and spend most of their career's trying to get promoted. Over many many years these people have been identified as people who are very dependable and will get the job done. The trouble is as young NCOs / Officers they get very hard jobs to complete, and the only way that they know is to brow beat and bully.

These people when they get promoted to the next highest level in their career, expect the next people on the ladder to behave as they do. They expect people to drive their people hard, not to question their orders and get the job done whatever the cost.

The people who get on in the Defence Forces are usually people who are YES MEN. They do not stand up and fight the corner of the people who depend on them because, it looks like they are going against the system, and to do this is not the best way to get promotion.

The senior guy in a barracks got there because of many reasons, but to get there he had to put up with some bullying. He in turns acts the way he was treated and before you know it, bullying is all over the place. Its not recognised as bullying, it's known as The System but the people who suffer are those near the bottom.

If you do not believe me, try this. Ask you local TD to ask the Minister for Defence how many Commissioned Officers have been charged with breaches of Defence Forces regulations over the last two years. You will find very few have indeed been charged, WHY because they belong to a very private club that looks after one another, but let a young private soldier be late for morning parade for a few minutes and he could end up loosing a full days pay.

Once you have this unfair two tier system you will always have bullying. We can only try and manage this problem, because it will always be with us.......

author by the soldier guypublication date Thu Nov 08, 2007 21:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

That#s a very good piece you wrote, and it makes perfectly common sense about Bullies/ They are everywhere, in scholls, children, too.... A bully has an inveriority compley and if challenged on his own he's avery different person. The Bully has to have an audience. I say BEAT THE BULLIES AND IDENTIFY THEM...The more this is discussed the quicker the bully will hide...Maybe if they had brains they would be dangerous !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

author by Anonpublication date Thu Nov 08, 2007 23:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Bullies do have brains and they ARE dangerous - a third or more of all suicides are attributable to bullying. The only answer to bullying is exposure, which bullies and their employers cannot withstand. Bullying thrives on secrecy and the shame felt by those who are bullied maintains secrecy.

The new Code of Practice on the Prevention and Management of Workplace Bullying from the HSA (2007) goes some way towards identifying regular publication of bullying indicators by each employer as an important preventive measure, but unfortunately does not require it - just imagine if each Garda station were compelled to reveal the number of bullying complaints and stress-related sick leave!

author by The BULLYpublication date Thu Nov 08, 2007 23:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Christ, thats frightening. Every Dog has His /Her Day. ......Perhaps the point I am trying to make is by highlighting the BULLY more and more victims will get the confidence and do something. See now all the cases that have opened up, this is because the victims got the courage from some other misfortubates story. One identification of a Bully is, they are nice to your face and talk about u behind your back, called 2 faced. & they are everywhere...One way to handle them is DO THE works !!!!

author by Katepublication date Fri Nov 09, 2007 02:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I agree with much of what has been said in this article and the problem in th army is also within the Gardai, useless people claiming they are bullied makes more work for hard working people. I wish to make some points about Mary O'Connors book.

Much of the scorn against her wasnt about bullying but because she stated complete lies in the book and attempted to twist everything during her luke worm career and take her frustrations and failings out on the force as a whole. If anything she was the lazy person crying foul to avoid work.

For starters, she had an affair with an instructor. Thats wrong plain and simple, you cannot do that in any college or educational facility.

Secondly, her crash. She was drinking the night before and was involved in a fatal car crash, of course her career was in question, so it should be if your guilty of a crime.

She spent time off duty with children she met through work, well that story is a lie but even if true its not professional.

Her most dangerous situation involved her hair being pulled by a street trader. She worked in the city centre, how the hell did she manage to avoid violent criminals so much????? Put it this way, she got a permanent position in the station that is not really a permanent position. She was taken of front line policing.

Lastly, any man in the Gardai that made such sexual advances towards a female would find himself in serious trouble. I consider myself a decent loomking woman but have never experienced sexual harassment or been invited to a threesome. If what she said in the book is true then Im insulted!

author by Anonpublication date Fri Nov 09, 2007 22:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There might well be "useless people" who (falsely) claim bullying to cover their own incompetence, but there are a great many "fine men and women who have had their will and spirit systematically broken down by serial predatorial bullies" (as Dr Corry is quoted above). I am sure every psychiatrist has met people broken down by abuse in the ranks. Gardai, prison officers, nurses and teachers / lecturers are the most bullied according to surveys (e.g. - and the worst abuses are, perversely, in professional training (garda college, teacher training and nurse training).

Somebody (GRA?) should copy this idea: (a "litigation league" of judgements by employer, in this case the universities).

author by Finland shootingpublication date Fri Nov 09, 2007 22:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

just announced the poor man who shot all those in that school & himself was Bullied.
1st. Where was he bullied ?
Who did he report it do ? and why was nothing done.?
And then he had a licence to carry a gun !!!!!!!!
It's too late now, but who ever is responsible to all the questions really has a lot on their plate, and this is the responsibility of the Government over there.Ya, Name and Shame them - save someothers

author by Shamempublication date Sat Nov 10, 2007 23:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Nobody does anything when presented with mental illness, although to be fair nobody has said Erik-Pekka Auvinen showed signs of anything more than being a loner. Today's newswire mentions a German man filling his car with petrol, paying and walking home (forgetting his car at the pump) - will anyone talk to him about why he is so distracted, or phone his GP? No, just identify him and deliver him back to the petrol station to drive off in that state, whatever the cause.

But on naming and shaming I could name a few reputed bullies amongst the local gardai, both from gossip and the odd mention in The Phoenix, and I have nothing to do with the gardai. Their subordinates' GPs could name them too, because they're feeding the victims with valiums and antidepressants.

author by The answerpublication date Sun Nov 11, 2007 00:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Pharmaticucal industries * chemists...How much is it to visist a doctor again? then the prescription

author by Come And See - Nonepublication date Tue May 11, 2010 03:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

An Garda Siochana is an Organisation.

Organisations mass people together and whenever you have a bunch of people together you will always have some form of trouble.

The church has taken steps to expose the Sexual Abuse Scandals, why?... because they wanted to?...No... Because they were CAUGHT.

This is the only way that there can be any hope of exposing and bringing to Justice those who undermine and intentionally hurt other colleagues in whatever form that may be. In the guards it seems to be psychological. You wont see black eyes.

I am of the belief that some people are easier targets for bullying than others. This may be from their demeanour or general performance but the roots of bullying are unhealthy in any circumstances and are found in the minds of persons who lack confidence in other parts of their lives. The person who bullies is in a unique position in the guards because of the heiracrchial system. The rank provides a mask and communication can be lowerd to the level of an A4 page; which can become a bullying tactic in itself. This is only my view and is open to debate.

The problem was celibacy in the church. Its EGO in the guards. It needs more women too; it would dilute the masculinity and the machoism; the source of the problem in my opinion.

So I believe that being CAUGHT is the only way the insiduous problem of bullying can be solved. Added to that the victim should, if he or she can, keep the awareness that the behaviour isnt normal, that there is nothing wrong with complaining it, and that they have a right to work in a dignified, respectful working enviornment and that they are a door away from help. It takes more courage to comoplain than it does to bottle it up and courage doesnt mean lack of fear; it means Standing up to it.

Realistically this bullying behaviour being as widespread as it is cant last forever; Look at the Church .... fires are being started rather than quinched.

I have faith in the Justice System and some members of An Garda Siochana.

author by Differentpublication date Tue May 11, 2010 09:35author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have faith in the POTENTIAL of the Justice System and some members of An Garda Siochana.

However, if the justice system is to ever reach its full potential (or anything remotely like it), the decent members of that system (including lawyers and the Garda Siochana) -- and by "decent" I mean the ones who genuinely believe in justice and fair play throughout the WHOLE of society -- will need to get help by way of understanding the whole overall bullying phenomenon, and the extremely serious psychological injuries that bullying can cause: which, often UNKNOWN to the victim, frequently include C-PTSD (Complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

The best information I know of on this hugely important subject was compiled by the late Dr Tim Field; and, fortunately, much of it is still freely available on the Internet.

The excerpt provided below is a small sample of his work, and it comes from a much larger piece at the following address:

"It's widely accepted that PTSD can result from a single, major, life-threatening event, as defined in DSM-IV. Now there is growing awareness that PTSD can also result from an accumulation of many small, individually non-life-threatening incidents. To differentiate the cause, the term "Complex PTSD" is used. The reason that Complex PTSD is not in DSM-IV is that the definition of PTSD in DSM-IV was derived using only people who had suffered a single major life-threatening incident such as Vietnam veterans and survivors of disasters."

author by Fearbolg - S2Spublication date Wed May 12, 2010 01:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Gardai are very well tutored in the art of bullying.

Don't forget they've had 6 years of unhindered practice on women and old men around Erris.

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