Learning in the big, bright city

Garda Mary Gallagher with her husband Joe Walsh at the reception for the 2017/18 McCabe Fellows at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in March. PHOTO BY PETER MCDERMOTT

Garda Mary Gallagher, a native of County Mayo, returned to Ireland recently after spending 12 months studying at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City as one of the two 2017-18 McCabe Fellows. She will now work for three years at Garda headquarters in the Dublin. We reproduce here her remarks at a special reception given at John Jay College back in March for her and colleague Garda Darren Coventry-Howlett. The reception was attended by Irish Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton and officers of the NYPD and An Garda Síochána.

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My father was born in County Mayo in 1935. Largely self-educated, having had to leave school at age 14, he became a carpenter, but he was always fascinated by learning. I often wonder what he could have achieved had he been given the gift of education.

My parents gave everything they had to educate my two brothers and me. As a child, it was nature and science that fascinated me. Growing up in a loving family in the West of Ireland, my father instilled in me a passionate respect for humankind – that we must help one another, respect each other, be compassionate to all people, and that we must always protect those who are weaker than us.

My father would refer to me as his favorite daughter, our little joke, as I was his only daughter, and he never me made feel I could do less or wasn’t equal to my brothers.

When I went to college, I obtained a Diploma in Biochemistry and Microbiology and became fascinated with crime-scene investigation techniques long before CSI TV shows were popular.

At 20 years of age, I moved to London to study forensic science and my dad accompanied me on that first trip to a new, big, bright city.

I obtained my degree in forensic science and applied for the London Metropolitan Police and for An Garda Síochána. I was accepted to both.

I came home to Ireland for love and loyalty of my family and of my country.

Years later and here I am in a big, bright city again. Never could I have imagined the wonderful opportunity I would be given. To come and to study at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and to live and experience the wonders of New York City for a year, has been an amazing life changing experience.

On this the 20th Anniversary of the McCabe Scholarship, The memory of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe is honored in a creative and generous way. It is a beautiful tribute to a fellow member of An Garda Síochána, who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

There is strength in knowledge and education.

My father was 76 when he died. The carpenter, the teacher, the enthusiastic learner to the very end. And maybe he thought that his final lesson to me was complete, that there is strength in keeping one’s brain active, even to the end, but the truth is that standing here before you all today, my father continues to educate and inspire me and I know he is here in spirit in this big bright and beautiful city. I also know he is proud of his favorite daughter today.

Thank You. Go raibh míle maith agaibh.