18 December 2005

Garda quits force 'because of bullying campaign'


18/12/2005 - 16:09:55

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A 43-year-old garda has quit the force because of a campaign of bullying and harassment, it emerged today.

It involved the shredding of his uniform in his locker, anonymous notes being placed on his desk and a digitally manipulated photo of him wearing a priest’s collar with the slogan: ‘Have the Gardaí gone soft?’.

The Dublin-based psychiatrist Dr Michael Corry, who details the case in his new book on depression, said there had been a flurry of activity after the garda made a complaint against a senior garda colleague.

“He started to receive untraceable phone calls in the night. When driving at night his car was followed, a garda car suddenly appearing behind his, intermittently flashing his lights and sounding the siren. He could never identify the driver.”

The garda found that he became a target of abuse after he completed a mediation course five years ago, and eventually had to go on sick leave, before retiring.

Dr Corry said the case, which is now going through the courts, was not an isolated one.

“Bullying in the Gardaí is ubiquitous at the moment. It’s a huge, huge problem. Because I do a lot of work with prison officers and guards, I would say they are the ones that get bullied the most.”

The hierarchical nature of the Gardaí means that bullies can give orders which on the surface appear normal but are designed to upset the victim. They can block the victim’s applications for transfers, promotion and specialist courses.

Under the Garda chain of command system, they can also read open letters from the chief medical officer before they are handed to the victim.

“Bullying has to be seen as an assault at work. It causes tremendous damage to people and it really crushes them,” said Dr Corry.

“There have been female members who have been sexually harassed and when they try to do something about it, they come up against a stone wall.”

In 1993, Dr Corry helped the Gardaí set up a peer support structure to deal with bullying in the force.

But he was so alarmed at the number of Gardaí who were still coming to him with complaints that he wrote a letter to the Garda Representative Association (GRA).

It was read out at their conference in Tralee last April in the presence of Justice Minister Michael McDowell, who responded by stating that the issue of bullying had to be addressed.

The Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy has since set up a working group to examine the current anti-bullying policies. They include the internal grievance procedures which many victims are afraid to use in case they become a target for even more bullying.

GRA president Dermot O’Donnell said he wanted to pay tribute to Dr Corry for having the courage to highlight the problem.

“I believe he has created an awareness at a higher level. It is still a huge problem. We all know someone who has been bullied, it’s commonplace, ” he said.

Mr O’Donnell said he had anecdotal evidence of at least one garda who had died by suicide due to bullying.

“In making garda management acknowledge the problem, we can then work in partnership to address it. It’s obviously going to take a long time and within our organisation, it will take a culture change as well. But change we must, it just cannot be tolerated any longer.

:: Depression: An Emotion not a Disease, by Dr Michael Corry and Dr Aine Tubridy, is published by Mercer Press.

Well I never !

"Bullying" with the Gardai ? A likely story , I'm sure .

Especially considering it did not involve a member of the public !

Sharon .
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