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Sunday 29 July 2007

The Black art of skating on very thin ice

Is it correct for gardai to show such emotion like those at O’Reilly verdict, asks Ruth Dudley Edwards

WHAT the hell has happened to the Garda?

According to an Irish Times report last Monday, two days, previously, when the jury pronounced Joe O’Reilly guilty, there was an explosion in the Central Criminal Court of air-punching, whoops, cheers and helpless sobbing.

OK, so one can understand — even if one regrets — that those who loved Rachel O’Reilly lost control of their emotions, but court officials and police should have been shaking their heads, calming them down and reminding them that this was inappropriate behaviour in a court.

Instead, we are told: “Two senior gardai, tears rolling down their cheeks, enveloped members of the Callaly family in a series of bearhugs.”


And it got worse. When Rachel O’Reilly’s mother stepped down after giving her victim impact statement, “she was wrapped in a tight hug by Det Sgt Patrick Marry”. Questioned by the press about how he was feeling, Det Sgt Marry, a red-eyed, reluctant interviewee, said, “When you’re at the coalface of a mother’s pain for her daughter and they turn to An Garda Siochana, it’s that you can provide a good service.”

I suppose we should be relieved that the Garda didn’t take off for Rachel’s grave with her friends to pour red wine on it and sing a rendition of American Pie.

Now, I’m not knocking Det Sgt Marry, who is, I’m sure, a most decent, humane and committed policeman.

Of course such people inevitably become emotionally involved in the pursuit of baddies. But the Garda are an institution of the state with a duty to keep professionally detached from those with whom they are engaged: miscarriages of justice are much more likely to occur if the police are emotionally involved.

With gardai gone soft, how long before a sobbing judge leaps off the bench to hug a victim and tell her that the scumbag he’d just sentenced had it coming?

Look, I wasn’t entirely happy with gardai in the days when what counted most was being over six feet and knowing how to give a troublesome suspect a good belt of the truncheon.

There were certainly cops around who thought that raped women had been asking for it and garda stations were often unpleasant places for the vulnerable, even if they were innocent.

Yet even then, there were plenty of Dixon of Dock Green types who had a sympathetic ear and an open mind. Now, however, like so many other areas of society, they are under constant pressure from society to get in touch with their feminine side and publicly show their feelings.

From the Presidency downwards, Ireland is being Dianafied. The substitution of cheap for genuine motion and sentimental rhetoric for considered speech had its apogee in Britain a decade ago as hysterical millions who knew nothing of that troubled woman, hounded the royal family out of their privacy so they could emote for the gratification of the public.

Britain since came, partially, to its senses, and looks back on that time with some embarrassment, but its institutions have been subtly corrupted nonetheless.

It was bad for parliament that the Labour benches of the House of Commons gave Tony Blair — whom they had pushed out of his job — a standing ovation when he said goodbye, although even applause in the House has always been seen as inappropriate.

It was even worse that David Cameron was so terrified that the Tories might be seen as uncaring and macho, that he made his MPs join in. Ireland can be worse, for from our terrorists to our President we are assailed by politically correct, meaningless and feminine language.

I’ve never recovered from that toe-curling moment when President McAleese explained to an audience of which I was a part that strangers were just friends we hadn’t yet met. What? President Mugabe? The unrepentant killers of Garda McCabe? President Putin? I don’t think so.

Ireland is even worse about this than the United Kingdom, not least because we have a head of state who thinks her primary job is to maintain the dignity of her office, but also because the modernises have not yet quite succeeded in getting rid of the tradition of stoicism. I’ve heard several of the young over recent weeks speak admiringly about old people rescued from floods who climbed out of boats saying “Musn’t grumble, many worse off than us”.

But then even the mad feminist social engineers in the British educational system never introduced anything as dangerous as the Exploring Masculinities programme foisted some years ago on Irish children by a gender-obsessed Department of Education, hell-bent on proving the discredited lie that there are no innate differences between girls and boys.

I haven’t yet had the privilege of reading the 350-page report, Se Si: Gender in Irish Education, launched by Mary Hanafin last week, but it’s apparently a grisly tale of boys doing worse and worse compared to girls. And if you slant the curriculum to favour girls, by encouraging course-work rather than exams and consensus rather than competition, you shouldn’t be surprised when boys get fed up and disruptive and finally drop out.

It’s time society got back into touch with its masculine side, stopped trying to outlaw risk and began again to cherish such virtues as courage. For a start, it could be made a disciplinary offence for any employees of the state to sob in public and the wildly successful Dangerous Book for Boys should be put on the curriculum.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards