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Saturday 30 September 2023 Dublin: 13°C
Opinion How the Kildare Mutiny helped set the gardaí on their unarmed path
Garda Stephen Moore writes about a pivotal moment for An Garda Siochána – his book is nominated in the An Post Irish Book Awards.

FORMED IN THE turbulent period between the War of Independence and the Civil War, An Garda Síochána (AGS) was tasked with restoring law and order in the new Irish Free State.

A century later, with the evolution of crime and following major societal changes, policing faces new challenges in a very different Ireland. In my book The Guardians – 100 Years of An Garda Síochána, I examine the challenges that the AGS faced during its early days, and how its history paved the way for the organisation we know now.

Each day since its formation, AGS has faced challenges in some form or another, and like any police service they will continue to do so – and how they cope with these challenges will be measured in the public satisfaction rate they obtain.

Although not perfect, and in no way dismissing individual and organisational mistakes of the past, here in Ireland our national police service maintains one of the highest public satisfaction rates of any policing service in the world.

Major challenge

We do not have to travel far along the lifeline of AGS to discover the first major challenge that the fledgling police force faced.

When new recruits from around the country arrived at the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) on and after 21 February 1922, many of them had served in the national movement between 1916 and 1921 and were recommended by the officers and clergymen in their home parishes.

These young men had ideals and ideas of why they were there and what their new role in their new country would entail.

Many of these aspirations were dashed when after eviction from the RDS, they marched in pouring rain to a nearby train station and found themselves in Kildare. They were allocated a small section of the old Artillery Barracks, recently vacated by crown forces. Their new billets had recently been used as stables, and their first evening was spent cleaning out dung in the darkness.

To complete their introduction, it was found that all their bedding had been thoroughly soaked during the train journey to Kildare. Welcome to An Garda Síochána!

Kildare Mutiny

Not the romantic start many believed they would encounter. Life in Kildare did not improve for the new recruits and the Kildare Mutiny almost disestablished the newly formed police force.

By 15 May 1922, seven of the eight companies of gardaí in training went into open revolt, their main grievance being that their supervisors and superiors almost all came from the old Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), or the enemy, as many would have thought.

Added to this growing air of discontentment was a small number of anti-treaty men who had joined in the RDS and who became active in subverting the morale of trainees.

The first Garda Commissioner, Michael Staines, and his officers, were unable to restore order, and swiftly departed for Dublin. On 16 May, an army unit with an armoured car arrived at the camp. They were confronted by 300 armed and irate recruits, and the army withdrew without a gun fired.

Eventually with the intervention of Michael Collins, and through further negotiations, tensions eased – but not before the garda armoury had been pillaged by anti-treaty forces.

A Commission of Inquiry was set up, and the mutiny led to the resignation of the first Garda Commissioner.

By accident more than design, the unarmed ethos of the modern AGS stems from the Kildare Mutiny and the famous statement from Michael Staines was born: “The Garda Síochána will succeed, not by force of arms or numbers, but on their moral authority as servants of the people”.

The Guardians – 100 Years of An Garda Síochána 1922-2022, compiled by Garda Stephen Moore is in bookshops now, priced €29.99. It is nominated in the An Post Irish Book Awards in’s sponsored category, Best Irish Published Book of the Year. Find the full list of nominees and more information at the awards website

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