NEW Year’s Eve was indeed a significant date for Caheragh native, Pat McCarthy.
It was his final day as a serving garda superintendent in the Cork North Division, having reached official retirement age.
Pat served the force for 40 years and he was at the time the longest serving garda in the country.
From working with changing legislation to adopting new policing practices, Pat has seen it all over his distinguished career, which saw him serve in several stations across the country.
It was only fitting, then, that hundreds turned up at the Hibernian Hotel in Mallow at the start of December to honour his 40-year service to the Force. Family, friends and former colleagues attended this special event to mark his retirement from the Force.
‘I guess 40 years is a long time in the Force and I was 60 years old on New Year’s Day, so I went right down to the line to reach retirement age,’ Pat told The Southern Star.
‘I’ve gone from being in charge of over 130 personnel, to now being in charge of no-one, so it’s a big difference alright. I’ll certainly miss the camaraderie at work.’
Pat started off his training in Templemore in 1975, at the tender age of 18. The former St Fachtna’s Skibbereen student had to wait a year after his Leaving Cert before he could join.
Following his training his first post was to Thomastown in Co Kilkenny. Pat spent two-and-a-half years there. His next posting was along the border up in Dundalk.
‘I enjoyed it there and it was a change for me as a young garda. It was a different time back then, and it was at the height of the Troubles. It was probably dangerous at the time and there was a lot of activity around the border, too.’
Having spent so much time working in the gardaí, Pat has indeed seen a lot of changes down through the years.
‘It has changed unbelievably in some aspects. In the early years you had very little crime and very little burglaries or public order incidents. You also didn’t have serious crime or the organised gangs that you have today. There was crime, of course, but it wasn’t as serious as it is now. It seems to have evolved over the years so such an extent that people have made a career out it,’ added Pat.
As well as keeping pace with criminals, Pat also had to contend with evolving legislation down through the years.
‘When I started out, for example, we didn’t have Public Order Acts but now there are numerous Acts and others have come on-stream since. We didn’t have custody records, either, at one stage. Even when I was superintendent, to keep pace with legislation was a constant job of mine, as I had to be up speed on all aspects of it.’
Sport has always played a big part in Pat’s life and he was a well-known rugby player in his day, having played with Waterpark in Kilkenny as well as Charleville. He also played rugby for Garryowen, as well as the Garda national team.
Married to Berna with five children, Pat did find himself on the move a lot, which was part and parcel of the job. From Charleville to Tipperary town and back to Kanturk, with a stint in Clonakilty thrown in, Pat became used of the changes.
‘There was a lot of movement alright, but my family always stayed in Charleville while I moved about. I moved back to Charleville as a sergeant in 1993 and then I got promoted to inspector in 1998 and moved to Dublin, which was certainly hard as I couldn’t commute from home.’
Pat found himself back down in the Cork North Division in 2000, when he was stationed in Fermoy and he was promoted to superintendent in 2007 so was based for his last nine years in Mallow.
While based in the Cork North Division, there were certainly some eventful moments for Pat when he was involved in a number of high profile operations. One of those that stands out for him was the discovery of an IRA arms dump in Newmarket in 1992.
‘Back then there was a lot of IRA activity and searches were being carried out as part of Operation Silo in the North Cork area. Our most significant find was in Newmarket when we found a bunker in a shed that contained 50 Kalashnikovs and firearms.’
When the Eurovision Song Contest rolled into Millstreet in 1993, Pat was in charge of security for the whole event.
‘This was a huge event and there may have been a possibility that it could be targeted by groups who wanted to disrupt it. We had to make sure we wouldn’t have to cancel it and it was a huge logistical operation. But it all worked out in the end.’
Now that he is retired, Pat has no definite plans for the future, and he’s going to take a little time out to enjoy his retirement.