A MEMBER of An Garda Síochána for almost 38 years, Sergeant Joseph Hehir has worked in various capacities across the country, but on Monday, he put down his final hours at Miltown Malbay Garda Station.
Embarking on his retirement, Sergeant Hehir said while he has thoroughly enjoyed his work, “there comes a time to call it a day”.
The Monmore native said he always wanted to become a garda and recalled his days of walking the beat in Midleton, where he was first stationed in 1972.
“I suppose that if I hadn’t got in, I would have applied in the UK. Thirty-seven years ago we had very little transport and we tended to be on the beat walking around. Also crime was much lower. On the other side of that though, we got to interact with the public,” he said.
He admitted that the most rewarding and enjoyable period of his career was his time in East Cork as a juvenile officer.
“My four or five years as a juvenile officer was a period of my life where job satisfaction was probably at its highest. It was just a very good scheme and you found that between 80% to 85% of young people that came through it were never involved in crime after that,” he explained.
Sergeant Hehir believes the scheme allowed gardaí to see underlying issues and acknowledged that when you look deeper, it is easier to make a fair judgement and see what’s really causing the problem.
While in Cork, the local football club was well able to spot a talented forward and the Banner man went on to earn two East Cork football championship medals, building on his success with the Kilrush Shamrocks, with whom he won a county championship medal.
Promoted in 1986 to sergeant and having spent a year and a half in Portloaise, Joe took up the Duty Sergeant post in Midleton where he remained until 1997 before returning to Clare that August.
While it was nice to come back home, the West Clare man was kept on his toes working out of Shannon Garda Station. In many ways, he said Shannon was like Midleton, a busy town, which was not new to him but the airport meant dealing with a variety of issues.
An opening in Miltown Malbay in 2001 drew Sergeant Hehir back to the west and he describes himself as “lucky” to have got the post.
“It’s a lovely place to be. There are very nice people here, they are easy to get on with and I can only be very positive about my time here. The one thing I’ll miss will be the Willie Clancy Festival. It is of huge benefit to the town and when you look at the number of people that come to the town, really and truly there has been very little trouble,” he revealed.
At a recent Ennistymon Court sitting, tributes were paid to the retiring sergeant and he said he was taken by surprise by comments from Judge Joseph Mangan and Gearóid Williams. “If anyone tells you that you work in a fair manner that’s all anyone can expect and it was very important to me. It was a bit emotional and I’d like to thank them for their kind words,” he said.
As for his retirement, he will see how things go and as a single handicapper, he might spend a little more time on the golf course.