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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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Charming cottage which inspired spy novelist John le Carré’s best-selling thrillers is on the market for £3million

Novelist John Le Carre’s former Cornish family home where he wrote best-selling thrillers has gone onto the market for the first time in 60 years for £3million. 

The writer and his wife bought Tregiffian Cottage in St Buryan, near Penzance, in the late 1960s.

The property was actually three former fisherman’s cottages which were adapted by Le Carre to create a single coastal home in 3.3 acres.

Le Carre, who died in December 2020, was best known for his spy novels, many of which were written at Tregiffian and then adapted for film and TV.

Nick Cornwell, le Carré’s son who grew up in the house, revealed their dog ate an early draft of one of the manuscripts. 

John Le Carre and his wife bought Tregiffian Cottage in St Buryan, near Penzance, in the late 1960s

John Le Carre and his wife bought Tregiffian Cottage in St Buryan, near Penzance, in the late 1960s 

The house boasts incredible seafront views which can be seen from this bright room

The house boasts incredible seafront views which can be seen from this bright room 

Le Carre - whose real name was David John Moore Cornwell - died in December 2020 aged 89

Le Carre – whose real name was David John Moore Cornwell – died in December 2020 aged 89

He told The Times: ‘Every Le Carre novel from 1970 onwards owes at least some of its genesis and most of its writing time to that house.’ 

The main house is 5,000sq ft including a self-contained guest wing.

There is a drawing room with an open fireplace, oak panelled walls and a west-facing bay window with a door to the garden.

Agents Savills add on Rightmove: ‘There is a library, which as one might expect, is a work of art, with bespoke joinery and a feature window at one end, glazed with what is believed to be part of the canopy from a second world war fighter plane.

‘There is also a seaward facing conservatory that has mesmerising views out to sea.

‘The dining room has a slate tiled floor, door to the garden, staircase to the first floor. The kitchen has a fireplace, island unit and door to the garden.

‘From here there is access to the rear hall, leading to a utility room, laundry room, boot room and scullery, with access to a safe room.’

A large swimming pool which is part of the property - with incredible views

A large swimming pool which is part of the property – with incredible views

On the first floor, there is a main bedroom suite with a barrelled ceiling, en suite bathroom and a semi-circular bay window with coastal views to the west.

There is a guest bedroom suite and further bedroom with dressing room and separate bathroom, both of which have sea views.

The guest wing, which is accessed via a staircase from the rear hallway, has a sitting room, bedroom and bathroom.

There is a detached annex/studio building, which could be rented out as a holiday let or used as a studio.

A staircase then rises to a first floor studio space, which was Le Carre’s writing room.

It has a balcony and granite staircase linking to the courtyard.

There are also a number of chalet-style buildings and a swimming pool as well as a gardener’s hut.

A living/sitting area in the house which has gone up for sale

A living/sitting area in the house which has gone up for sale 

The description goes on: ‘The gardens and grounds have been beautifully landscaped, whilst being sympathetic to the property’s enchanting coastal setting, and are mainly to the east and south of the house and buildings.

‘Much thought and years of care have been invested in the gardens, cleverly creating a variety of formal and informal areas, split into lawns, borders and wild meadow areas with paths cut through.

‘It is difficult to do the gardens justice in words as they are impeccably maintained and planted with a variety of specimen trees, shrubs and herbaceous borders, interspersed with numerous sheltered seating areas, viewpoints and sculptures.’

It comes two years after another of Le Carre’s homes was offered for sale for almost £2million.

The writer moved into the stunning Grade II property near Wells, Somerset, in 1965.

Le Carre – whose real name was David John Moore Cornwell – died in December 2020 aged 89.

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Copyright Dispute: DC Comics And ‘Fables’ Author Clash over Ownership, Author Aims for Public Domain

A detail from a 'Fables' cartoon by Bill Willingham. Image courtesy of the publisher ECC.
A detail from a ‘Fables’ cartoon by Bill Willingham. Image courtesy of the publisher ECC.

This is a story full of fairy tales. In some ways, it even resembles one. And yet it also proves that, in the real world, things rarely end happily ever after. A few days ago, Bill Willingham, the father of the celebrated Fables comic book series, announced that he was sending his most cherished work to the public domain, that is, to everyone. That’s only fair, since that is also where he got the main characters of his stories, from Snow White to the Wolf, from Pinocchio to Prince Charming, who were then relocated to modern New York. In this tale, the hero has long-faced mistreatment at the hands of the villains, DC Comics, the owner of Vertigo, which publishes the work in the United States, and its executives.

“If I couldn’t prevent Fables from falling into bad hands, at least this is a way I can arrange that it also falls into many good hands,” Willingham wrote in an online post in which he decried the label’s repeated attempts to take over his creations and opposed them with this final extreme remedy. But the company responded that it considers itself to be the true owner of the series.

In a statement published by the specialized media IGN, the company threatened to take “necessary action” to defend its rights. Thus, the end of the dispute is uncertain. But it is unlikely that everyone will end up happily ever after.

In the meantime, in a new post, Willingham celebrated the massive support he received. In fact, for the moment, he has declined all interview requests — he did not respond to this newspaper’s request, nor did the publisher — arguing that he preferred to spend the next few days working on new artistic projects. Meanwhile, the dispute continues.

Fables is one of the most celebrated graphic novels of the last 20 years, and it has spawned spin-offs and a video game adaptation (The Wolf Among Us).

This situation also touches on a key issue, namely, the intellectual property rights of characters and works, especially in a sector where, for decades, dozens of cartoonists and screenwriters have accused comic book giants Marvel and DC of pressuring them to cede their ideas and accept commissioned contracts.

Willingham sums it up as a policy aimed to make creators sign “work for hire” agreements and crush them. All of this makes a gesture that was already intended to make a splash even more resonant.

A detail from a ‘Fables’ cartoon by Bill Willingham. Image provided by ECC
A detail from a ‘Fables’ cartoon by Bill Willingham. Image provided by ECC.

Indeed, the battle over intellectual property is as old as contemporary comics: the copyrights for Superman, Batman and The Fantastic Four all have unresolved disputes and complaints from Jerry Siegel, Bill Finger and Jack Kirby over the contemptuous treatment they suffered. And heavyweight Alan Moore has been lamenting for years that DC took away his ownership of famous works like Watchmen.

Along with prestige and principles, tens of millions of dollars are at stake, especially now that the film industry has become interested in comics.

“When you sign a contract with DC, your responsibilities to them are carved in stone, where their responsibilities to you are treated as “helpful suggestions that we’ll try to accommodate when we can, but we’re serious adults, doing serious business and we can’t always take the time to indulge the needs of these children who work for us” the Fables author wrote on his blog. Following the impact of his original message, Willingham posted two other texts. He maintains that he had thought about sending his work into the public domain when he passed away, but that “certain events” have changed his plans: among them, he lists the changes in management and attitude at the top of the publishing company; the multiple breaches of obligations such as consultations about covers, artists for new plots and adaptations; DC’s forgetfulness when it came to pay, which forced him to demand invoices of up to $30,000; the suspicious frequency with which the publisher attributed it to “slipping through the cracks” (to such an extent that the author insisted that they stop using that expression); and the time and chances he gave them to respect the pact, renegotiate it or even break it and consensually separate.

A detail from the cover of the first volume of Bill Willingham's comprehensive collection of 'Fables.'
A detail from the cover of the first volume of Bill Willingham’s comprehensive collection of ‘Fables’.

“Shortly after creating Fables, I entered into a publishing agreement with DC Comics. In that agreement, while I continued to own the property, DC would have exclusive rights to publish Fables comics, and then later that agreement was expanded to give DC exclusive rights to exploit the property in other ways, including movies and TV.

DC paid me a fair price for these rights (fair at the time), and as long as they behaved ethically and above-board, and conducted themselves as if this were a partnership, all was more or less well. But DC doesn’t seem to be capable of acting fairly and above-board.

In fact, they treated this agreement (as I suppose I should have known they would) as if they were the boss and I, their servant. In time that got worse, as they later reinterpreted our contracts to assume they owned Fables outright,” Willingham laments. Hence, he concluded that “you can’t reason with the unreasonable.”

Having ruled out a lawsuit as too expensive and time-consuming at 67 years of age, he found a more creative solution: if they prevented him from owning his works and benefiting from them as he was entitled to do, he would not let the publisher do so either. Or, at least, everyone could use the comics as they wished. But the label was quick to clarify in its statement to IGN: “The Fables comic books and graphic novels [are] published by DC, and are not in the public domain”.

For his part, Willingham promises to continue fighting for all the conditions of his still-in-force contract that he considers DC to have violated, as well as for the last installments of the series, the final script of which he delivered two years ago.

There will be additional chapters in this dispute, as well as in many other ones like it: in 2024, the historic first image of Mickey Mouse, the one that starred in the 1928 short Steamboat Willie, enters the public domain in the U.S. and other countries. Copyright in the U.S. lasts for 95 years, and math is an exact science.

Therefore, in a few years, King Kong, Superman and Popeye will meet the same fate. But The New York Times has wondered how the “notoriously litigious” Disney will react and how far it will go to fight in court. And who would dare to freely use all these works for fear of a million-dollar lawsuit? The same question surrounds DC and similar companies. Because in the real world, fairy tales are rare. Or they end up in court.

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Assessing The Potential of The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) Against China’s Belt And Road Initiative (BRI)

(THE VOICE OF EU) – In a recent address, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the newly unveiled India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) as a transformative force poised to shape global trade for centuries. While the IMEC undoubtedly presents a significant development, it’s vital to scrutinize its potential impact compared to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The IMEC was jointly announced by US President Joe Biden and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit in Delhi. Designed to fortify transportation and communication networks between Europe and Asia via rail and shipping routes, the project not only holds regional promise but also reflects a strategic move by the US in its geopolitical interests, particularly concerning China.

However, the IMEC faces a formidable contender in the form of China’s BRI, which celebrated its tenth anniversary this year.

Despite facing some headwinds, including a slowdown in lending due to China’s economic deceleration and concerns raised by nations like Italy, Sri Lanka, and Zambia regarding debt sustainability, the BRI remains a monumental global undertaking.

With investments surpassing a staggering $1 trillion and over 150 partner countries, the BRI has transformed from a regional initiative to a near-global endeavor.

Comparatively, the IMEC may not immediately match the scale or ambition of the BRI. While the US, Japan, and the G7 nations have introduced similar initiatives like the Global Gateway and Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, none have achieved the expansive reach or influence of the BRI.

The emergence of these projects over the past five years, however, demonstrates the BRI’s pivotal role as a catalyst for global economic growth.

Viewing the IMEC solely through the lens of opposition to the BRI may not provide a comprehensive understanding of its potential.

Instead, the IMEC contributes to a broader trend of transactional partnerships, where countries engage with multiple collaborators simultaneously, underscoring the complex and interconnected nature of global trade relations.

Yet, realizing the IMEC’s aspirations demands meticulous planning and execution. A comprehensive action plan is expected within the next 60 days, outlining key governmental agencies responsible for investments, allocated capital, and implementation timelines.

Establishing a streamlined customs and trade infrastructure is equally critical to facilitate seamless transit, a challenge highlighted by the Trans-Eurasian railway’s 30-country passage through Kazakhstan.

Navigating geopolitical complexities between partner countries, particularly the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, poses another potential hurdle.

Ensuring these nations maintain a unified strategic vision amid differing priorities and interests requires careful diplomatic coordination.

Furthermore, the IMEC will compete directly with the Suez Canal, a well-established and cost-effective maritime route.

While the IMEC may enhance relations with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, it could potentially strain ties with Egypt, prompting critical assessments of the project’s economic viability.

Beyond trade and economics, the IMEC ambitiously aims to incorporate diverse sectors, from electricity grids to cybersecurity.

This multi-dimensional approach aligns with discussions held in security forums like the Quad and, if realized, could significantly contribute to a safer, more sustainable global landscape.

As we contemplate the potential of the IMEC, it is with hope that the lofty ambitions outlined in New Delhi will culminate in a tangible and positive transformation for the world.

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