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Doc on One

'If it ever happens again you're sacked' - Majella Moynihan says she was used as an example to other female gardaí

The former garda said she felt pressured by the force into giving her baby David up for adoption.

LAST UPDATE | 17 Jun 2019

A FORMER GARDA who has said she faced disciplinary action after becoming pregnant in the 1980s has said she was used as a “guinea pig” for other women in the force.

In a powerful interview, Majella Moynihan has told RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke that garda superiors used her treatment as a warning to others. 

“I felt was that I was the guinea pig, they put me up there and they said to me ‘we’ll show other women if you get pregnant this is what you’re going to be let into’. This is what’s going to be done to you’,” she said. 

The interview comes after Moynihan’s story was featured in RTÉ’s Documentary on One.

In the documentary, Moynihan says she was interrogated and faced dismissal from An Garda Síochána for having pre-marital sex with another trainee garda. She said she felt pressured by the force into giving her baby David up for adoption.

Both Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan have since issued apologies to Moynihan. Flanagan said the former garda “faced an appalling ordeal at a time in Ireland that was sadly too often characterised by stigma and intolerance”.

Speaking to O’Rourke this morning, Moynihan says that trainee guards in Templemore were never told they couldn’t pursue relationships with each other but that she was “questioned” a lot about it.

“They looked down on the fact that we were having relationships down there. It was quite prevalent, we weren’t the only couple . When I look at my file it was prevalent but it wasn’t something that they were grateful or happy that I was in.”

I find it extremely difficult that our morals were brought into disrepute that they felt they could charge me with something like that, they never once said that women were not to do this.

After Moynihan became pregnant, she said she stayed on-the-beat for the first 17 weeks of her pregnancy before telling a female inspector. 

Moynihan said she was directed towards the Catholic Church affiliated crisis pregnancy agency Cura. She described the group as “very supportive” but said that, in all her dealings with authorities, adoption was presented as the only option. 

Moynihan also spoke about the day her son was born:

They wouldn’t give me the epidural and I was in absolute horrific pain and I wept myself and I just felt in there that I was nothing to them. And when David was born, they just took him. They just took him. 

“From the first time I told the authorities it was ‘adoption, adoption, adoption’. And I often wonder if I had been supported by them (the guards) would I have kept him, because this is a decision I regret to this day.”

RTÉ Radio 1 / SoundCloud

Gardaí eventually decided not to take disciplinary action against her and she explains that she was told that this was because it case it encouraged female gardaí to have abortions. 

“The meeting was arranged and what came back to me from the meeting was ‘you’re not being sacked Majella’. And the reason being that Archbishop McNamara said is that if you’re to be sacked you’re opening the gates for other beangardaí to go to England.”

I was cautioned to go the Harcourt Square to meet a chief superintendent there and I walked in and he was so cold just looked me up and down, he never told me to sit down. I was on my own with no support and he just said, the words and I can still hear them, ‘If it ever happens you again you’re sacked’. And I just walked out.

The father of her child was fined £90 for his conduct and Moynihan says she was asked to testify in this hearing, something she described as “the most horrific abuse”. 

In the hearing she was asked to testify about her sexual relationship with him and her sexual history. 

“I will never forget it, sitting in a room, there was one female there, the stenographer, the rest were men,” Moynihan says.

There was three in the top table, there was the father of my child and his representative and there was a stenographer and another guy. So there was one, two, three, four, five, six men and the female stenographer and it felt like an eternity. I felt was that I was the guinea pig, they put me up there and they said to me ‘we’ll show other women if you get pregnant this is what you’re going to be let into. This is what’s going to be done to you’.   

Speaking earlier, Moynihan has said that the response to her story has been “phenomenal”.

“I knew it was a big story, but I didn’t think it would get the coverage it has got. I’m overjoyed,” she said.

“I kept it secret for so many years, because I had so much shame, and now it’s no longer my story of shame, it’s their shame. And I feel so vindicated.”

She said she hopes that her story will help to empower other women who have been in similar situations to come out and tell their own stories.

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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