By Ian Callagy
Sergeant Dave McInerney, speaking at the annual Garda National Consultation Day, held in Dublin Castle last week, wants the public to report racist incidents. He said respect towards ethnic minorities was of paramount importance. The Gardai have a duty to preserve justice in society and no one should be excluded, the popular Garda stated.
Opening the conference, the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan welcomed those from all walks of life throughout Irish society who were in attendance. The Commissioner said the consultation allows the Garda Siochana to “listen very very carefully” to those from different backgrounds in this country. However the Gardai, he stated, need to “improve relationships even further” and there needed to be “great emphasis on building communities”.
Commissioner Callinan spoke in a warm manner. He said his organisation must “communicate our message effectively” and stressed the Gardai’s commitment towards the public in addressing all victims of crime, no matter the racial background. The commissioner, in his speech, concentrated on inclusivity. The Gardai want to be representative of all in society, he told the audience.
Deputy Commissioner WI Rice said he was “privileged” to be involved in the day’s conference. He praised “diversity” policing but stressed that “successful integration is a two way process”. Gardai should use appropriate language when interacting with ethnic minorities, the Deputy Commissioner continued. Indeed he wanted to “greatly encourage” the opening of Garda stations to members of the public. This, on some occasions, had led to a “carnival atmosphere” being created.
Sergeant Trevor Laffan, based in Cork, gave an account of his experiences in the southern capital. In a good-humoured presentation he listed a number of services that immigrants can use, provided by the Gardai. He outlined ways of combating racism in the Cork area. Not all immigrants have good experiences and, Sgt Laffan explained, there are now initiatives in place to remedy this lack in confidence. He gave several anecdotes to encourage trust in the community. Crime fighting is not the only focus of the Gardai, Sgt Laffan stated. Social inclusion can go a long way towards working for a better Ireland.
Cultural diversity now manifests itself widely in Dublin city and its suburbs. However Sergeant Brian Sheridan said human trafficking, welfare fraud, violence against women and honour-based violence were new problems the Gardai now have to deal with. “Embracing change” and “building and maintaining relationships” with ethnic minorities is essential in achieving “common goals”, Sgt Sheridan told the consultation.
In the past, youths of African descent in Tallaght and Blanchardstown were involved in “organised fights”, Sgt Sheridan revealed. Efforts were made to stop this alarming behaviour and the violence was finally ended. But this only happened when respected individuals in the black community worked in partnership with the Gardai. This serves as an example of successful engagement with the new communities.
Sergeant Vincent Connolly was another who addressed the consultation. He spoke of the importance of taking pro-active measures to tackle racist incidents. Sports were a good way of enlightening the Gardai and members of the public. Sgt Connolly also said there were different perceptions, among ethnic minorities, of Ireland’s legal and justice system. When the Garda Consultation Day ended there were a number of recommendations read out by members of the audience. The day’s event, it is hoped, will assist the Gardai and community leaders in moulding a better society for all.