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Clare’s Jack a force to be reckoned with in gardaí

Banner man played key role in modernising the service and giving members a voice

THE campaign of a Clare native to modernise Ireland’s police force has been documented for the first time in a new book that sheds light on the development of a representative association for the Gardaí.
The late Jack Marrinan from Lisdoonvarna was a campaigner for the rights of Gardaí and his impact on the modernising of the force is traced in Changing of the Guard by Kerry native and former Garda, Tim Doyle.
Mr Doyle was at Ennis Bookshop on Wednesday last for the Clare launch of the book, which also features the work of Garda Michael Conway. The Barefield man was instrumental in setting up a medical aid fund for Gardaí.
Both men were members of what Mr Doyle describes as “the second generation of An Garda Síochána”.
“The first generation started when the force was set up in 1922 and it only began recruiting again in the early 1950s,” he outlined.
“Out of the 240 who joined the Gardaí then, 14 were from Clare and the Clare men were highly regarded with many great characters among them.”
The book details the early life of the young Jack Marrinan, his family and education and his entry into the force.
“Jack was something special,” Mr Doyle said. “He had amazing leadership qualities and people listened to him. He was a great policeman.”
Jack was also someone who recognised the need for change within An Garda Síochána.
“At the era, the force was stagnant to some degree and favouritism was often at play in things like promotions,” Mr Doyle noted. “Jack saw the need for fairness in policing.”
It was this sense of natural justice that came into play when, in 1961, he agitated over a pay deal that discriminated against newer members of the force.
The deal had been done by a group dominated by senior Gardaí and there was no satisfactory mechanism to iron out industrial relations issues.
Jack and ten of his colleagues were dismissed from the force for daring to highlight members’ concerns.
After a series of meetings and a rally of more than 1,000 Gardaí in the Macushla Ballroom in Dublin, Jack and his fellow leaders were reinstated to their jobs.
The Clare man later went on to be General Secretary of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) for 27 years.
While a serving Garda, Mr Doyle met Jack when he had need of the support of the GRA.
In the fraught atmosphere of the mid-‘70s, he was charged with assault in the course of his duties monitoring suspected terror group members.
“I was provided with two barristers and after two days in court was acquitted of all charges,” Mr Doyle said.
“In the years that followed I picked up the phone to thank Jack for what he had done for me. I met him then over the course of several hours.
“He was a wise owl and I asked him why he had never written a book about his experiences. He suggested that I would tackle that and gave me access to a press full of documents and records.
“He really was a hero and I think it’s very important that his story is told and included in the big history of An Garda Síochána that is to come out to mark the centenary next year.”
Another Clare man, and a great friend of Jack Marrinan also features in the story.
“Michael Conway was born in the parish of Barefield and attended school in Toonagh,” Mr Doyle outlined.
“He is 90 now and went to County Monaghan after his training. Michael had an aptitude for figures and was given the job of payroll at his station.
“He went on to set up the Garda’s medical aid fund. He was a wonderful man and his work has made a great difference to so many Gardaí.”
Changing the Guard is Mr Doyle’s third book. Get Up Them Steps is a memoir of his experiences serving in Dublin and Peaks and valleys: The ups and downs of a young Garda is a detailed and often humorous account of life on the beat. He credits his mother for his love of writing.
“We use to write long letters to each other and she had a magnificent facility for writing,” he said.
“I then started writing stories for Ireland’s Own and when I wrote this book my good wife, Agnes, sent it off to a publisher [Currach Books] who gave me a call back about it.”
Royalties from the book will go the Irish Kidney Association, an organisation that has played a major role in Mr Doyle’s life.
“I was always healthy and a footballer, but my health suddenly went down and I ended up on kidney dialysis and treatment for around ten years,” he said.
“In 2017, I got the call from Beaumont Hospital for a transplant and I’m so grateful to the donor and their family. I’m keenly aware that all charities are struggling now and I wanted to do something for the Kidney Association because of what they did for me.
“I’m very thankful to have gotten into the Gardaí and this book was about giving thank to them too. They are wonderful people and the guardians of the peace.
“Jack and Michael were great inspirations for me. We are looking for heroes nowadays and they’re hard to find, but there men really were inspirational.
“Their stories need to be remembered and I’m delighted that part of this book will be included in the forthcoming history of the force next year.”

Changing of the Guard: Jack Marrinan’s battle to modernise An Garda Síochána is available at Ennis Bookshop and other outlets. It is also available from Currachbooks.com.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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