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It's almost impossible to be thrown out of the Garda Siochana. You have to really put your mind to it. Unless you become a public disgrace, they'll tolerate most anything.
I'd been to the wire. Numerous
And still I didn't shape up.
Or rather sober up. Don't get me wrong. The gardai and drink have a long, almost loving relationship. Indeed, a tee-total garda is viewed with suspicion, if not downright derision, inside and outside the force.
My supervisor at the training barracks said,
"We all like a pint."
Nods and grunts from trainees.
"And the public likes us to like a pint."
Better and better.
"What they don't like is a blackguard."
He paused to let us taste the pun. He pronounced it, in the Louth fashion, "blaggard".
Ten years later I was on my third warning. Called before a supervisor, it was suggested I get help.
"Times have changed, sonny. Nowadays there's treatment programmes, twelve-step centres, all kinds of help. A spell in John O' God's is no shame any more. You'll rub shoulders with the clergy and politicians."
I wanted to say,
"That's supposed to be an incentive!"
But I went. On release, I stayed dry for a while, but gradually, I drank again.
It's rare for a garda to get a home posting, but it was felt my home town would be a benefit.
An assignment on a bitter cold February evening. Dark as bejaysus. Operating a speed trap on the outskirts of the city. The duty sergeant had stipulated,
"I want results, no exceptions."
My partner was a Roscommon man named Clancy. He'd an easygoing manner and appeared to ignore my drinking. I had a thermos of coffee, near bulletproof with brandy. It was going down easy.
We were having a slow duty. Word was out on our location. Drivers were suspiciously within the limit. Clancy sighed, said,
"They're on to us."
Then a Mercedes blasted by. The clock hit thermo. Clancy shouted,
I had the car in gear and we were off. Clancy, in the passenger seat, said,
"Jack, slow down, I think we might forget this one."
"The plate . . . see the plate?"
"Yeah, so what."
"It's a bloody scandal."
I had the siren wailing, but it was a good ten minutes before the Merc pulled over. As I opened my door, Clancy grabbed my arm, said,
"Bit o' discretion, Jack."
I rapped on the driver's window. Took his time letting it down. The driver, a smirk in place, asked,
"Where's the fire?"
Before he could respond, a man leaned over from the back, said,
"What's going on?"
I recognised him. A high profile TD. I said,
"Your driver was behaving like a lunatic."
"Have you any idea who you're talking to?"
"Yeah, the gobshite who screwed the nurses."
Clancy tried to run block, whispered,
"Jeez, Jack, back off."
The TD was outa the car, coming at me. Indignation writ huge, he was shouting,
"Yah brazen pup, I'll have your job. Do you have any idea of what's going to happen?"
"I know exactly what's going to happen."
And punched him in the mouth.
Copyright 2001 by Ken Bruen