Garda Museum and Archives
Opening Hours:9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday
Dublin Castle Record Tower.
The Garda History Museum is one of individuals, as much as of the force.
Michael Staines was an interesting Volunteer. The son of an RIC man, he was the Quartermaster General within the General Post Office in 1916. When sent to Frongoch, he became ‘Camp Leader’ among the men, and upon his release became active once more at home in the Volunteer movement. On August 17, 1922, as Garda Commissioner he would lead his new police force through the castle gates.
He would be followed by Eoin O’ Duffy, another character of the republican movement, and a most controversial one to boot. Ironically, O’ Duffy had been one of the Republicans involved in the first ever capture of a Royal Irish Constabulary Barracks, in the company of Ernie O’ Malley.
This Museum, while covering the history of that force which marched into Dublin Castle in 1922, does not shy away from the forces that called it home before them. Rather, it is a comprehensive look at the history of policing in Ireland. The Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police feature prominently in the Museum, featuring both on occasion as a political force (For example the 1913 riots, which resulted in the deaths of several workers) and a day to day police force. The history of the Royal Irish Constabulary in particular is a loaded one, when one considers that, to give one example, the Black and Tans were directly employed by the RIC. Preserving history is not a matter of politics however, and to see so many quality RIC and DMP historical pieces displayed as well as they are here is a treat, and of great assistance to anyone who believes a complete picture is needed when studying some of the most remarkable years in Irish history.
The Museum, spanning an amazing four floors, is one of the last old-fashioned Museums in the city centre in my humble opinion. In fact, along with the Natural History Museum, it is a sort of throwback to Museums of old, and what I feel Museums should be. All the more incredible considering Dublin Castle is only home to the Museum since 1997. The correct approach to displaying items like those in the Garda Museum is simple: Allow the pieces to speak for themselves, and provide the information clearly alongside the items. There is no shortage of information available, in the form of information panels and wall displays, but unlike some museums there is no overpowering audio-visual element.
One should not attempt to focus on individual pieces in a Museum like this, as in every corner something new grabs your attention. The Museum holds a variety of War of Independence medals for example, belonging to men who would later join the ranks of An Garda Síochanna. The above Proclamation however stands out for me, issued on April 25th in response to the Rising which began a day previous.
“WHEREAS, in the City of Dublin and County of Dublin certain evilly disposed persons and associations, with the intent to subvert the supremacy of the Crown in Ireland, have committed divers acts of violence, and have with deadly weapons attacked the Forces of the Crown, and have resisted by armed force the lawful Authority of His Majesty’s Police and Military Forces. AND whereas by reason thereof several of His Majesty’s liege Subjects have been killed and many others severely injured, and much damage to property has been caused”
The role of the Gardaí in the new state, in its first few years, is covered, where the force was to follow Staines belief that “The Garda Síochána will succeed not by force of arms or numbers, but on their moral authority as servants of the people” Early Garda documents (for example dealing with the unarmed nature of the force), uniforms and insignia are all on display.
Of course, the 1900-22 period is of particular interest to me. Perhaps for other visitors, this isn’t the case. Yet, the story of policing in Ireland told here is so long and broad that certain aspects of it will no doubt appeal to others the way parts of it did to me. Even the stairs here play home to wonderful photographs and pieces, there is not an inch of this Museum left without an item. From my own perspective, approaching the centenary of the 1913 lockout, the Easter Rising and the conflicts that followed on from it, it is no doubt time many of us with a keen interest in the period attempted to increase our understanding of the state forces in Ireland at the time.
I will conclude with a verse from ‘Good Bye RIC’, which I have taken from Jim Herlihy’s wonderful history ‘The Royal Irish Constabulary’
‘We once could walk the city too,
Dressed neatly in our suits of blue,
With polished feet and all complete,
Our heads erect going down the street,
But now we are scattered everywhere,
Far from the dear old Depot Square,
Some of them lie in graves from Foyle to Lee,
Fell fighting in the RIC’