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‘Putting on a uniform does not make you immune to fear,’ former Garda chief says

Facing the centenary of the Garda Síochána, former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan believes the relationship the force has with the community, despite controversies, remains unique.

“Sometimes it can be very frustrating for onlookers, and indeed for people inside the organisation, the time it takes to deal with some of the issues.

“But working in partnership with the community will sustain us for the next hundred years. Despite all the perceived dysfunction, I think we compare very well,” she said in an interview with The Irish Times.

“We are appreciated more outside this jurisdiction than we are within it,” she said, mentioning the citations that come back when gardaí serve abroad in UN missions, or with Europol.

I wanted to do a lot, and I felt it was so badly needed. There was a real appetite for change, within the ordinary women and men

The relationship is based on foundations left by the first Garda commissioner, Michael Staines, who decided that the force should “succeed not by force of arms or numbers, but on their moral authority as servants of the people”.

Speaking to mark the centenary of the force, O’Sullivan said the quality of its members, and its relationship with the community, sets it apart internationally.

Following her resignation in 2017, O’Sullivan went to New York to work as assistant general secretary for safety and security for the United Nations, a position she left in 2021.

Appointed as Garda commissioner in 2014, the first woman to fill the role, O’Sullivan said she set about introducing “deep-rooted cultural and structural reforms”.

However, she said that, on reflection, it may have been “too soon” for the organisation to accept that a woman who had risen from within the ranks should lead that change.

“I wanted to do a lot, and I felt it was so badly needed. There was a real appetite for change, within the ordinary women and men,” she said.

Her successor, Drew Harris, was in a position to benefit from the work that had been done identifying the reforms that were needed, she said.

These reforms were designed to ensure that “good people” were supported, while “rooting out the wrong ones, and that bad culture that needs to be dealt with”.

O’Sullivan spent a large part of her early Garda career involved in the fight against drug crime, rising to the rank of detective superintendent while doing so. “The criminals saw the money that could be made from drugs, and very quickly it spread out from Dublin, and became national, and then international.”

The Garda had to restructure nationally, and quickly develop “robust” relationships with other police forces. “That sort of internationalisation took place pretty quickly,” she said. “The globalisation of crime and the globalisation of terrorism means that there are no boundaries and no borders.”

The Garda had to be careful to help some of those who became enmeshed in the drugs trade, she said: “You need to be very careful not to criminalise users or people who are actually victims of very sophisticated drug networks and who have been intimidated. When you look at everything from punishment beatings to families who are intimidated into paying over money, there is a lot of victimisation that happens in that drugs/organised crime nexus that is not always that visible,” she said.

O’Sullivan saw this first-hand during the early 1980s: “Addiction was tearing families apart. I still meet people today who saw their families, their children, dying, and then their grandchildren become addicted. And then, on the other side, I know one particular woman, and her proudest claim is that she put all her grandchildren through college, even though her children had died from drugs.”

Undercover unit

When O’Sullivan joined the force in 1981 less than 1 per cent of gardaí were women. Following Templemore, she was sent to Store Street in Dublin 1, policing one of the most deprived urban communities on the island.

In her early twenties, she was chosen as a member of the Garda’s first undercover drugs unit, working with five others to get inside the “fortresses” that the criminal gangs set up as the heroin trade took hold.

Because it was the practice at the time for detectives to wear suits, shirts and ties, they “might as well have had a blue light flashing” when they approached flats complexes. “It wasn’t popular. We didn’t look like normal detectives, we didn’t wear suits and ties. We were dressed in street clothes, and it was very different and unusual at the time. Some people in traditional policing circles didn’t see the need for it.”

It was exciting work but dangerous, as the group posed as users wanting to buy drugs as a means to gather information about who was behind the supplies, making arrests along the way.

Former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at a concert at Slane Castle in 1984, with other members of an undercover unit called the ‘mockies’ that targeted drug crime in Dublin in the 1980s
Former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at a concert at Slane Castle in 1984, with other members of an undercover unit called the ‘mockies’ that targeted drug crime in Dublin in the 1980s

She lists off the injuries, including bites, that her colleagues suffered when situations turned violent, before casually mentioning that she has a chipped tooth from a head-butt. Her husband, Jim McGowan, who was also part of the undercover team, suffered a skull fracture in one incident.

“We [the undercover team] worked really well together, and it was that whole thing of having a sense of purpose, trying to identify who were the main dealers, how to get in there, get the evidence to bring to court, and at the same time to make sure that the people who needed help got help.”

Dubbed the “mockies” – or mock drug addicts – the undercover unit was supported by the then detective inspector of the drugs squad, Dinny Mullins, and from the late Tommy O’Reilly, who was the superintendent in Store Street.

“I always felt that we as the police, and we as the unit that we were, that we owed the community a duty to do something about drug dealing, and to be seen to do something,” she said.

Later, as assistant commissioner crime and security, O’Sullivan had the lead role in national security and intelligence-led operations aimed at disrupting domestic and international terrorism and organised crime.

‘Archaic’ disciplinary procedures

She believes it is a strength of An Garda Síochána that it deals with both national security and regular policing. “The way we define terrorism needs to be the subject of a new conversation. There are [Republican] dissidents, international terrorism, terrorism financing, narco-terrorism, cyber terrorism. Once again it is all about protecting the community.”

Despite controversies, the Garda consistently has a high public trust rating of more than 85 per cent, a figure that is the envy of most other police forces, she said.

Supporting Harris’s anti-corruption policies, O’Sullivan warned that the Garda had to be vigilant to ensure that officers “struggling to pay a mortgage” are not tempted into wrongful behaviour.

“You have to be very proactive in making sure that you minimise the opportunities for any type of corruption that might be there. I think that is really, really important.”

The vetting of new recruits needs to be “robust”, and once in the force members need to be subject to supervision that is “almost intrusive”, she believes.

Asked if it is too difficult to fire a garda, she responded immediately that it is, adding that “archaic” disciplinary procedures must be modernised.

Nóirín O’Sullivan resigned from her role as Garda commissioner in 2017. Photograph: Alan Betson
Nóirín O’Sullivan resigned from her role as Garda commissioner in 2017. Photograph: Alan Betson

“No good police officer wants to be on a patrol, in a car, in any place with somebody that is known to be a rogue, or bad. They want to call out behavioural issues, and do the right thing, by and large. And I think there is an obligation on the organisation that structures be in place to support that and weed out wrongdoing, so as to address any behavioural issues very early on.”

Policing, and especially frontline policing, is a very stressful occupation, and on occasion members can have “blue mist” or “red mist” episodes and feel inclined to strike out, she said.

“At the end of the day everyone is human and people are afraid, and that is where we really need to be clear about professional standards and that line that you do not cross.”

Garda do an extraordinary job every day, she said. “Putting on a uniform does not make you immune to fear and dread.”

Body cameras

The arrival of smartphones and social media have made frontline policing all the more stressful, she said, with the latter sometimes being used to try to identify members of the force and publish their home addresses.

“You are there and all of a sudden there is this mayhem all around you and you have these people putting cameras in your face,” O’Sullivan said.

Body cameras would help relieve the pressures created by people videoing Garda members while at the same time verbally abusing them in an effort to provoke a response.

“I think a lot of people who engage in this type of behaviour would be more reluctant to do it, if they knew that the guard had a body camera and could record that person’s behaviour.”

“In my experience, the guards have nothing to fear from having them. It is the opposite. They can be a protection.”

An Garda Síochána face the same types of violent incidents as other police forces, O’Sullivan said, but are particularly good at managing them.

“The guards are very tolerant of what I would say are abusive situations, and try to de-escalate and de-conflict situations that would escalate very quickly in other jurisdictions.”

Asked if she believes members of An Garda Síochána tend to protect and cover-up for colleagues who have acted improperly, O’Sullivan said a lot has changed in recent years.

“In my experience most people who join the police, join to do the right thing. They don’t want to see wrongdoing, they want wrongdoing to be challenged, and they are willing to call it out. And you have to have the mechanisms in place to allow them to call it out and to speak up.”

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Do water features like a pool, pond or fountains add value to a home?

He may be used to making a splash in politics. But now it seems that Boris Johnson will be able to do that closer to home, too.

This week, it was revealed that the former prime minister has been given permission to build a swimming pool in the garden of his £3.78 million Oxfordshire country home. 

A move which will doubtless provide a restful place to unwind, exercise and relax as he navigates post-political life.

Deep pockets: A country home with outdoor swimming pool

Deep pockets: A country home with outdoor swimming pool 

But even if you don’t have deep pockets for such deep-water projects, it’s still possible to create the tranquil benefits of waterside living. 

Whether it’s through installing a hot tub, pond, or even decorative fountains. 

But, as our experts point out, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons before splashing out…

Frequent attention

Introducing any kind of water feature to your garden requires some upkeep.

During the spring and summer, you’ll need to top up your water feature regularly to replenish water loss caused by evaporation. 

And there’s also the task of removing branches and leaves as well as pruning bushes nearby.

‘It’s also a good idea to give your water feature a thorough clean and add a wildlife-friendly algaecide or UV steriliser after cleaning,’ says Will Haxby, home and garden sales director at Haddonstone, which specialises in stonework ‘as this will prevent algae growth build-up caused by the warm conditions.’ 

When the temperatures drop, drain off water before the winter to protect your feature from frost. 

You’ll also need to clean the pump to remove any limescale build-up.

Will it add value?

Installing features like fountains can add to the kerb appeal of your home, says Tabitha Cumming, a property expert at The Lease Extension Company, says: ‘This means that it will make a better first impression and potentially add value to your home.’

Amer Siddiq, founder and CEO at Landlord Vision, believes that water features such as fountains can have other benefits, too.

‘They can help mask unwanted noises from roads or neighbours. They can also attract birds and wildlife, adding a touch of nature to your surroundings.’

Andrew Landers, director at Property Rescue, a home-buying service, says: ‘The post-covid world has seen the importance of outside space massively increase, and any enhancements that make this space more enjoyable is going to have a positive impact on the value of a home.’

Hidden costs

Factor additional costs into your budget, too, since water features rarely boil down to a single, one-off payment.

‘For example if any of your water features have fish, these can incur additional costs from the food and care that they will require, and you will also need to be vigilant to keep them safe from predators,’ says Cumming. 

Some features can cause structural issues, too. 

‘Fountains may become damaged through wear and tear or have cracks caused by water freezing over,’ she adds.

Beware risks

In summer, having a water feature will make you a magnet for friends and family who want to pop around and cool down. 

All of which, says Anna Giles, an associate at law firm Wedlake Bell, could increase scope for accidents

‘Homeowners should bear in mind that they could be subject to a claim for compensation if someone injures themselves at their property, so reasonable care needs to be taken to ensure that visitors and/or occupiers of the property will be safe.’

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Furious landlord hits out at family from HELL after forking out THOUSANDS to fix property: ‘I gave them charity and they treated my home like a doss house’

A landlord who rented out his 3-bedroom County Durham terraced house to a family on housing benefits has been saddled with thousands of pounds in repair damage after the tenants moved out leaving the property looking ‘like a s*******’.

University lecturer Paul Rostron, 57, from Swindon, rents out three small properties in County Durham to contribute to his children’s university fees and had previously been blessed with good, responsible tenants. 

Unfortunately Paul has now been saddled with thousands of pounds worth of repairs and cleaning after his old tenants treated his house like a ‘doss house’ and left  behind mountains of rotting furniture and rubbish. 

In shocking pictures, Paul’s cosy terraced family home is beyond recognisable replaced by layers of dirt, grime and filth. 

The carpeted floors are covered in dust and wrappers as well as discarded clothes and cardboard boxes. 

After three years of habitation Paul's tenants left his house looking like a bombsite

After three years of habitation Paul’s tenants left his house looking like a bombsite

The once immaculate garden has been treated like a personal dump for years

Prior to their tenancy, Paul had spent thousands of pounds making the house cosy for his lodgers

Prior to their tenancy, Paul had spent thousands of pounds making the house cosy for his lodgers

A distraught Paul told MailOnline he had been charging his tenants lower than market rate for the property

A distraught Paul told MailOnline he had been charging his tenants lower than market rate for the property

Speaking to the MailOnline a distraught Paul revealed he was shocked at how little care the tenants had paid to his property in the three years they’d lived there. 

Sharing pictures of the property before the tenancy started, the attention to detail that Paul and his team of decorators had done to ensure his tenants are well looked after is obvious. 

This though, he says, wasn’t meant to last. 

He explained: ‘The tenants moved in in 2020, at the start of the pandemic. 

‘They had the house entirely immaculate. The walls were freshly painted and we had new carpets in at the start of their tenancy.

‘They treated it like a doss house – I have no idea what they did there.’

Paul originally bought the property for £34,000 in 2020 but says that due to the area he has had to rent out properties often at cut prices – meaning that he will be making an overall loss with the repairs. 

A carefully manicured children's room was treated like a pigsty and left with broken appliances

A carefully manicured children’s room was treated like a pigsty and left with broken appliances 

Stained mattresses and broken beds were left leaning against the walls of the small room

Stained mattresses and broken beds were left leaning against the walls of the small room

Rotting piles of rubbish were abandoned in the sitting room along with detritus

Rotting piles of rubbish were abandoned in the sitting room along with detritus 

Cardboard boxes, children's toys and rubbish were littered across the conservatory

Cardboard boxes, children’s toys and rubbish were littered across the conservatory 

Paul was forced to spend thousands of pounds subjecting the house to a deep clean

Paul was forced to spend thousands of pounds subjecting the house to a deep clean

He explained: ‘The tenants were not able to pay the rent themselves so we got them the Universal Credit and got housing benefit to pay the rent

‘They were paying £380-a-month for a three bedroom terraced house. I was making a loss.

‘I was basically giving them charity and in return they treated my house like a s*******’

Since the nightmare renters moved out, Paul has been left to pick up the pieces. 

As well as deep cleaning the rancid property, Paul has had to personally make a host of costly repairs including outfitting the house with new carpets. 

He continued: ‘They moved out two weeks ago and we had to move three skips worth of rubbish out of the house. 

‘That cost over £1,000. . I’ve got to put new carpets in there as well.

‘As for the kitchen, it was disgusting, it made us all vomit so we had to get professional cleaning services in to do all the units and everything. 

‘The cooker was a shambles.

The carpets had rotted away so we had to replace them and have all the house painted all the way throughout.’

The toilet had never been cleaned and the bathroom was filled with waste products

The toilet had never been cleaned and the bathroom was filled with waste products 

Paul had intended to use the rent to help put his children through university

Paul had intended to use the rent to help put his children through university

Aside from the obvious disgust and inconvenience his tenants have caused him, the repair fiasco has left Paul in a lurch with his own children’s university fees – which he contributes to with his side earnings as a landlord. 

He said: ‘I use the money I get from my three rental properties to help my children through university and I’ve taken quite a hit on this. It has cost me thousands of pounds.

‘The maximum deposit you can set is about 5 weeks worth of rent – which doesn’t cover the damages at all.

‘My rental agent told me it was the worst state of a house he’d ever seen. It’s just shocking.’

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“The Creator”: A Glimpse Into A Future Defined By Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare

By Cindy Porter

In “The Creator” visionary director Gareth Edwards thrusts us into the heart of a dystopian future, where the battle lines are drawn between artificial intelligence and the free Western world.

Set against the backdrop of a post-rebellion Los Angeles, the film grapples with pressing questions about the role of AI in our society.

A Glimpse into a Future Defined by Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare

A Glimpse into a Future Defined by Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare

While the narrative treads familiar ground, it is timely, given the rising prominence of artificial intelligence in our daily lives.

A Fusion of Genres

Edwards embarks on an ambitious endeavor, blending elements of science fiction classics with contemporary themes.

The result is a cinematic stew reminiscent of James Cameron’s “Aliens” tinged with shades of “Blade Runner” a dash of “Children of Men,” and a sprinkle of “Akira” This concoction, while intriguing, occasionally veers toward familiarity rather than forging its own distinct identity.

Edwards’ Cinematic Journey

The British filmmaker, known for his foray into doomsday scenarios with the BBC docudrama “End Day” in 2005, has traversed a path from indie gem “Monsters” (2010) to the expansive Star Wars universe with “Rogue One” (2016).

“The Creator” marks another bold step in his repertoire. The film introduces compelling concepts like the posthumous donation of personality traits, punctuated by impactful visuals, and raises pertinent ethical dilemmas. It stands as a commendable endeavor, even if it occasionally falters in execution.

Navigating Complexity

In his pursuit of depth, Edwards at times stumbles into the realm of convolution, leaving the audience grappling with intricacies rather than immersing in the narrative.

While adept at crafting visual spectacles and orchestrating soundscapes, the film occasionally falters in the art of storytelling.

In an era where classic storytelling is seemingly on the wane, some may argue that this approach is emblematic of the times.

AI: Savior or Peril?

“The Creator” leaves us with a question that resonates long after the credits roll: Will artificial intelligence be humanity’s salvation or its undoing? The film’s take on machine ethics leans toward simplicity, attributing AI emotions to programmed responses.

This portrayal encapsulates the film’s stance on the subject – a theme as enigmatic as the AI it grapples with.

“The Creator”

Director: Gareth Edwards.
Starring: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Madeleine Yuna Boyles, Ken Watanabe.
Genre: Science fiction.
Release Year: 2023.
Duration: 133 minutes.
Premiere Date: September 29.


Top 5 Movies by Gareth Edwards:

1. “Monsters” (2010)

– A breakout hit, “Monsters” showcases Edwards’ talent for blending intimate human drama with towering sci-fi spectacles. Set in a world recovering from an alien invasion, it’s a poignant tale of love amidst chaos.

2. “Rogue One” (2016)

– Edwards helms this epic Star Wars installment, seamlessly integrating new characters with the beloved original trilogy. It’s a testament to his ability to navigate complex narratives on a grand scale.

3. “End Day” (2005)

– This BBC docudrama marked Edwards’ entry into the world of speculative storytelling. Presenting five doomsday scenarios, it set the stage for his later exploration of dystopian futures.

4. “The Creator” (2023)

– Edwards’ latest venture, “The Creator,” immerses audiences in a future fraught with AI warfare. While not without its challenges, it boldly tackles pertinent questions about the role of artificial intelligence in our lives.

5. Potential Future Project

– As Edwards continues to push the boundaries of speculative cinema, audiences eagerly anticipate his next cinematic endeavor, poised to be another thought-provoking addition to his illustrious filmography.

“The Creator” stands as a testament to Gareth Edwards’ unyielding vision and his penchant for exploring the frontiers of speculative cinema.

While it doesn’t shy away from the complexities of AI, it occasionally falters in navigating its intricate narrative.

As we peer into this cinematic crystal ball, we’re left with a stark question: Will artificial intelligence be our beacon of hope, or will it cast a shadow over humanity’s future? Only time will unveil the answer.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

— By Cindy Porter

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