WHILE it was never part of his master career plan to join An Garda Síochána, you could say it worked out pretty well for Clare native James O’Mahony, who has retired from the force after almost 40 years in the service (39 years and three months).
Up until last week, James also had the distinction of being the oldest garda in the country and the oldest junior liaison officer (JLO) in the country, something which he smiled about.
James – who celebrates his 61st birthday on July 25th – was one of several gardaí who received extensions last year after they were asked to stay on during the Covid-19 crisis.
As a JLO based out of Bandon Garda Station for the past 26 years, James is synonymous with helping the youth of Bandon and Kinsale and was instrumental in setting up both the West Cork Garda youth Awards in 1995 and Kinsale Youth Support Services (KYSS) in later years.
While James is leaving the gardaí, he’s not giving up on his work with KYSS and plans to work there three days a week.
‘I’m feeling very good now and now is the time to go. I covered a lot of ground in that 40 years and I’m also happy that I’m moving over to KYSS to work there. So I’m not really changing jobs that much, more like swapping over a bit but I will have more time to myself,’ James said.
Hailing from Carrigaholt on the Loop Head Peninsula, James was a farmer for three years before getting into the hospitality industry. It wasn’t until a colleague told him he was applying to join the gardaí that James applied too.
‘While I never wanted to join the gardaí, he was doing his entrance exams to join in 1982 and he asked me if I was interested in it. I said I’d have a cut off it, studied night classes for Irish and Maths and ended up passing the exam, while he failed it!
‘I would have been in the first batch to go to Dublin but because my dad died I had to wait and go in the second batch which was going to Cork so it’s funny how things worked out.’ After a stint in Glanmire, James got a transfer to Kinsale in 1984 and he was there until he was appointed JLO at Bandon Garda Station in 1995.
‘I’ve always enjoyed the work and there’s great pleasure too as you’re sitting down with someone and you’re trying to help them in any way possible to stay away from crime. There was definite great personal job satisfaction from that.’
Both James and his colleague, Don Davis have been working on the Juvenile Diversion Programme in the Cork West Division for the past 21 years and they set up the much lauded West Cork Youth Garda Awards in 1995, which have gone nationwide since. It was something he fought for and he is immensely proud of these awards.
James was also instrumental in setting up KYSS (Kinsale Youth Support Services ) which is an important support structure for teenagers in both Bandon and Kinsale who may struggle with various issues including mental health.
‘We got together with a number of people in Kinsale and started it with a blank page and it moved on from there to develop a number of services with HSE support. We will be moving into the old HSE building in September to be shared with the Youth Café and Kinsale Men’s Shed.’
The dad of three who lives in Belgooly said his wife Margaret is ‘absolutely thrilled’ for him to be retiring.
‘I’ll certainly miss my colleagues at Bandon Garda Station but I’m happy to leaving now and it’s time to explore new possibilities. The good thing about this going forward is that there is a bit of work and also a bit of pleasure.’