RETIRED and current female gardaí from the southern region have been honoured with a special function to mark the 60th anniversary of women being allowed to join An Garda Síochána.
The event was led by Assistant Commissioner Anne Marie McMahon, who heads up the Southern Region from Anglesea Street Garda Station.
She said: “Today we not only celebrate the 60th anniversary of women joining An Garda Síochána, but also the contribution women have made to An Garda Síochána and to policing since then.”
Among those attending the function was Sally Hanlon, who served for 19 years in Cork’s Bridewell Garda Station. She said: “I was the first female garda to continue working after the marriage bar was lifted in 1974.”
She said she was also one of the first gardaí to get maternity leave, in 1976. She left the force 27 years ago, and is the director of services of Support After Crime Services.
A spokesman for An Garda Síochána said: “In July 1959, following a long-running campaign by civic groups and with the support of the then Garda Commissioner and Government, 12 women joined An Garda Síochána and were allocated to Pearse Street Station.
“Since then, women have made a crucial contribution to the organisation, as well as society. In December 1964, the first woman was allocated to the Southern Region and was stationed in the Bridewell, Cork.”
As of May 31, there were 197 female gardaí in Cork city, 77 in Cork West, and 81 in Cork North. Among them is Garda Sarah Coakley, who is based in Mayfield.
She said she loves being a garda, having joined after first studying social care in CIT.
“It is different every single day,” she said.
The first person in her family to join the force, she said she was attracted to it after seeing at first hand the work of gardaí while on placements during her social care studies.
The garda spokesman said there are currently 3,780 female gardaí in the force, accounting for 27% of the organisation.
He added: “This is above the European average for female representation within police services. In addition, 26% of the Garda reserve are female, and 76% of Garda staff are also female. Earlier in the year, Commissioner Harris announced that An Garda Síochána would be establishing a Women’s Network to support and encourage women in the advancement of their careers in the organisation.
“The network will be chaired by Chief Superintendent Margaret Nugent.”