An Garda Síochána are currently carrying out a massive recruitment campaign, with plans to greatly expand the service and increase their ranks to 15,000 members.
Applications for the positions close this month, and so we at Recruit Ireland have sought out the expert advice that you should consider before putting yourself forward for the job.
Garda Tadhg Mohally has over 20 years’ experience in An Garda Síochána, and the job has taken him all over the country and provided him with a huge variety of opportunities within that time.
Given how much success he’s found in the career, it’s surprising that being a Garda had never been Tadhg’s initial plan.
“I had been studying accounting in college originally, when a friend of mine told me he was applying to join the Gardaí,” Tadhg recalls. “He thought it was something I’d be interested in too, and that I’d be good at, so he convinced me to apply and thankfully we both got in. I finished off my second year in college before I transferred, then had my first day in Templemore on the 27th July 1998.”
In the twenty-three years that have followed, Tadhg has never regretted his decision to join An Garda Síochána. He believes one of the biggest perks to the job is its ever-changing nature, which means he’s never been stuck doing the same thing for long.
After graduating from Templemore, he was stationed in Howth Garda Station, where he spent the next five years before transferring to Kilkenny in 2004.
In Kilkenny Garda Station, Tadhg continued working in the regular unit on day-to-day policing until a vacancy popped up for community policing and he switched over to the new position.
It would not be the last transition he’d make during his seventeen years as a Garda in Kilkenny. In the years that followed, Tadhg also found success as a family liaison officer – an emotionally fraught and busy job, but one he took great pride in.
“Being a family liaison officer basically means you’re the key link between a victim’s family and the guards,” Tadhg explains. “At no stage should the family not know what’s going on, so if they have any queries or concerns they come to you and you find the right answers for them. Then once the case goes to court, you accompany them there and talk them through the whole court process. You’re really just there to ease their burden as much as possible.”
This desire to help the victims of crime, or to get their families some answers, would come to the forefront during Tadhg’s next venture with An Garda Síochána. In 2012, a rare opening became available in the Scenes of Crime Unit and Tadhg decided it was time to try something totally new.
It’s definitely not like you see in the movies, where you shine a special torch and all your evidence just magically lights up!”
“I had no forensics experience when I joined the Scenes of Crime Unit,” he admits. “I was well used to crime, in that it’s what I had been dealing with up to that point through going to burglaries and things of that nature. I had a very basic knowledge, as every guard is forensically aware of things like how to apprehend somebody.
“When I joined the Scenes of Crime Unit, though, they trained us to a very high standard. I became really aware of all the ways that any scene I was attending could eventually help us secure a conviction in court. We covered all possibilities in our training, from obvious things like finding a fingerprint, to how do you pull that same print when it’s in blood? Or there are some trickier things, like a lot of people probably don’t realise that there’s skill involved in taking prints from objects like windows. It’s definitely not like you see in the movies, where you shine a special torch and all your evidence just magically lights up!”
Tadhg went on to spend nine years with the Scenes of Crime Unit, and in that time he came across all kinds of cases – some that have haunted him more than others. From home break-ins, right through the spectrum to sexual assault or murder scenes, Tadhg has seen it all.
“There’s definitely been some really difficult scenes I’ve had to attend,” he sighs. “But I’ve learnt a lot from them, and you get better at coping after each of those experiences. I learnt from a fatal road traffic accident that I responded to years ago that it’s so important to talk to somebody after it, and now it’s one of the first things I do once I come off cases like that. I’ll either talk it out during the drive back with the other Gardaí who were on the scene with me, or I’ll arrange for us to pick up the phone in a few days’ time and check in on each other.
“The Gardaí are a very close family, so we all look out for each other. If we know somebody’s had a bad day, we’ll all go for a coffee or pint afterwards or something. If one of our colleagues is going through something, we more than likely have been through it ourselves at some point too, so it definitely does help to talk about it,” he shared. “We are also very lucky that counselling is readily available through An Garda Síochána. I personally talk to my friends or colleagues more often, but it’s great to have professionals there for the serious stuff, like a murder scene that was particularly disturbing.”
I think that’s what guards do, first and foremost, is they’re out there to help people. So if it means going through a bit of hardship ourselves to get a good result for somebody at the other end of it, it is worth it.”
The serious side of the job isn’t something to be taken lightly, Tadhg warns, but he says it shouldn’t deter people from joining the Gardaí either; “The tragedies that come with the job are definitely something people should be aware of. I mean, I would never have dreamt when I was going to school that I was going to end up in a job dealing with such sadness, but I suppose you just have to remember that you get to deal with, and create, a lot of happiness too.
“I know of other sections in An Garda Síochána where they deal with absolutely horrific cases daily, let’s say departments that deal with children who have been abused. I know I wouldn’t be able to do their job, but they always say that they enjoy their work because it means they can come away knowing they’ve helped and protected that child by investigating the crimes committed against them. So you have to look at the positives, that’s the only way to get through it.
“Let’s say a house has been broken into – if you know you’ve helped make sure that somebody gets convicted for it, then there’s a positive. Sometimes there’ll be a very sudden, unexpected death and we have to go in and investigate it, but if we’re able to tell a family at the end of the coroner’s report that it was an accident or that their loved one died in a way that wasn’t malicious or intentional, then of course there’s still sadness there but it also helps the family. I think that’s what guards do, first and foremost, is they’re out there to help people. So if it means going through a bit of hardship ourselves to get a good result for somebody at the other end of it, it is worth it.”
If you’ve seen any of the adverts on TV lately, you’ll know we’re looking to get applicants from all walks of life.”
There are plenty of other things, Tadhg says, that make a career in An Garda Síochána worth it. During our interview, he laughs as he remembers helping to get an anxious couple to the hospital just in time for the wife to deliver their first child. He grins as he tells me about a more recent incident where his colleagues helped an elderly woman who came to the station looking for help in getting her driver’s license, and they kindly took the time to book a driving test online for her. From these small moments for a Garda, that can mean a whole lot more to the people they’re helping, to the regular interactions they’d have with the public while out on the beat, it’s clear that a sense of community is one of the top criteria needed in any future recruits.
Beyond that, however, there’s significantly wide scope within what An Garda Síochána are looking for from their latest recruitment drive. “The criteria changes every so often, it’s definitely moved on since I was applying,” says Tadhg. “If you’ve seen any of the adverts on TV lately, you’ll know we’re looking to get applicants from all walks of life. You don’t need to be extremely academic or have gotten crazily high Leaving Cert points, and you don’t need to be fluent in Irish anymore.
“Within the job, they train you and facilitate you with any skills you’ll need, so don’t feel you’d be underqualified for anything until you try it. Really for this recruitment drive, the Gardaí are looking for things like applicants who’ve trained their local football team, because straight away you can see this person has a skill and they’re using it to help people, and are regularly interacting with their community. If you’re talking to and helping twenty kids on the pitch every Saturday evening, then at the end of the day you could well go into work with An Garda Síochána and apply those same skills if you’re helping twenty people to deal with a tragedy or a break-in or something like that. So that’s why they’re trying to get recruits from many different sections of society right now, because those future Gardaí will then in turn be dealing with people and incidents from any and all walks of life.”
I’ve had a wonderful career but I never had to miss out on watching my children grow up because of it”.
The walk of life that Tadhg himself is from is, no surprise, a very community-oriented one. The family man left Kilkenny last year and is now working in the garda station in Thurles, after moving there with his wife and kids. As much as he loves his job, it’s always been important to Tadhg that family comes first.
“It’s another reason why I’d really encourage people to go for a career in the Gardaí, is because you can find ways to fit it around the rest of your life,” he advises. “When my kids were still young, I worked a shift pattern of four days on and four days off. The days ‘on’ were long, twelve-hour shifts but then the other 50% of my time was free to spend with my family. So while I usually missed out on weekends with them, I could be off work from Monday right through to Friday morning, getting them to and from school and all of that. I’ve had a wonderful career but I never had to miss out on watching my children grow up because of it”.
If any of his family wanted to become a Garda tomorrow, Tadhg would be overjoyed. Such is his love for the job; “If anybody was thinking about it, or had even the slightest feeling that it might be for them, then I would 100% say they should go for it” he enthuses.
“I’ve been with An Garda Síochána for almost twenty-three years, and I’ve not looked back once. I’ll certainly see myself out with them. It offers you a huge variety, I think the life experiences I’ve gotten from my work, compared to some of my peers that I grew up with, is just extraordinary. I certainly wouldn’t change it. Say tomorrow, I could go into work at seven in the morning and I’ll have no idea what I might have faced by the time I head home that evening. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of that, the not knowing what’s next.”
If you share Tadhg’s sense of adventure, and think a career in An Garda Síochána may be for you, then be sure to get your application in by Wednesday 16th March.
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