The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT -

ONE thing is cer­tain – af­ter the way the gar­daí han­dled the evic­tion of anti-home­less­ness pro­test­ers in Dublin this week – the hardy boys have been let loose, leav­ing us with a few Drew mys­ter­ies.

What are we to make of Robo­cop gar­daí, faces cov­ered in flame-re­tar­dant bal­a­clavas? Is this the emerg­ing per­son­al­ity of our po­lice un­der their new boss Drew Har­ris? The for­mer top North­ern po­lice­man was pitch per­fect as he took up the reins of of­fice as Garda Com­mis­sioner – that mid­night swear­ing-in, the man­i­fest con­fi­dence he dis­played in the de­ci­sion to take a press con­fer­ence on his own and his ex­press de­ter­mi­na­tion to serve and pro­tect through a model of polic­ing based on trust.

How­ever, af­ter the events in North Fred­er­ick Street on Tues­day one has to won­der if all that has been for noth­ing. The evic­tion scene, af­ter a court or­der, was like some­thing from a street protest in Moscow. The im­agery was scary.

The Garda’s own Mis­sion State­ment prom­ises polic­ing ‘with the trust, con­fi­dence and sup­port of the peo­ple we serve’. For all their faults, the gar­daí have al­ways been ‘ours’ – our sons and daugh­ters, cousins, neigh­bours and friends. We’ve al­ways known who they were. They’ve never needed to hide be­hind bal­a­clavas when it came to run-of-themill polic­ing. The events of this week have fur­ther dam­aged pub­lic trust in the force at a time when it’s al­ready in ac­ci­dent and emer­gency.

Drew Har­ris needs to get a han­dle on this. He needs to re­turn the gar­daí to old-fash­ioned com­mu­nity-based, nor­mal uni­form polic­ing in dou­ble-quick time. And he needs to avoid, like the plague, the ten­dency to­wards more paramil­i­tarystyle dis­plays we wit­nessed this week.

pub­lic or­der: Gar­daí and pro­tes­tors at North Fred­er­ick Street, Dublin, on Tues­day

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