PAYING TRIBUTE The memorial plaque was unveiled by the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Michael Staines, grandson of Commissioner Staines. Pic: Conor McKeown
Newport born Michael Staines was the first Commissioner of An Garda Síochána
The legacy of the first Garda Commissioner, Michael Staines, was evident in glorious sunshine in Newport last Wednesday with the unveiling of a monument in his honour.
One hundred years to the day since Michael Staines led 440 members of the newly formed Civic Guards into Dublin Castle to relieve the disbanded Royal Irish Constabulary, the current Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and several high ranking members of An Garda Siochána joined over 65 descendants of Michael Staines in Newport to commemorate the historic event.
Staines, who was considered ‘a right hand man’ of Michael Collins, was in February 1922 appointed as the first Commissioner of the Irish Civic Guards which later become known as An Garda Síochána.
The son of a RIC constable Edward Staines and Newport woman, Margaret McCann, Michael Staines was born in his mother’s home in the townland of Kiltarnaught outside Newport on May 1, 1885.
The family moved to Roscommon and later to Dublin where Staines joined the IRB and was the Quartermaster in the GPO at the 1916 Easter Rising. He later became a TD and at the age of 37 was appointed the first Commissioner of the Irish Civic Guards which was formed to replace the RIC.
The town of Newport came out in large numbers last Wednesday afternoon to honour Staines at the ceremony held in the town park where a monument in his honour was unveiled by his grandson, Michael Staines and the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.
Speaking at the ceremony which was attended by the Garda Regional Ceremonial Unit and the Garda Band, Michael Staines said his grandfather’s would be proud of his legacy.
“Where is his legacy? … Well I don’t have to look very far, his legacy is all around you. While An Garda Siochana has had its ups and downs, it has been a hugely positive force in this country and has ensured that this country remains a democratic country governed by the rule of law. I think my grandfather would be very proud to look around here today,” he said.
Mr Staines thanked all the people in attendance and thanked the people of Newport for the support they showed his family when the idea of a monument was first mentioned. He said his grandfather and his siblings were all Republicans and he believed that was largely down to his Newport mother.
Mr Staines said his grandfather rarely spoke to his children about what happened during the War of Independence but his family were very proud of his achievements.
“The thing I am proud of is that he led the first group of Irish service people into Dublin Castle to take over Dublin Castle which was the bastion of British rule for 700 years. I am so proud of that.
“My grandfather never talked about this at home and none of his sons or daughters knew much about what happened. The odd comment might slip out here or there. My father mentioned to me not long after my grandfather died that he met a well-known Fianna Fáil politician who I will not name. He stopped him and said that your father was a very straight man and very honest man and a trusted man and did his utmost to try to avoid the civil war. I think that was a fine epitaph for my grandfather.”
Michael Staines only served as Commissioner for eight months before resigning but before he did he stated that ‘An Garda Siochána will succeed not by force of arms or numbers but on their moral authority as servants of the people’.
The current Commissioner Drew Harris said the ‘obvious skill and ability’ of Michael Staines made him a natural choice as first Commissioner. He added the values which he instilled in the first recruits remain in place 100 years on.
“Commissioner Staines had an inspirational vision for our organisation and that was to depend on its morale authority on Irish society as loyal servants to its citizens. That vision has gone on to define our policing presence here in Ireland and indeed has been emulated elsewhere in the world.
“The evolution of our organisation over the last century has not been without challenges but in the sprit of our first commissioner we continue to overcome all of those challenges. Just as the first and second generation of gardaí responded to the difficulties they faced and encountered so too do we today embrace those challenges to deliver a policing service in a modern Irish society,” he said.
Chief Superintendent Ray McMahon, who is in charge of the Mayo Division, said that the current gardaí have to continue to ‘carry that torch first lit by Michael Staines’. He paid tribute to the people of Newport and thanked them for all they have done to remember Michael Staines.
Sense of community
“Newport is a place with a strong sense of community where people look after each other and there is dignity respect and honesty. They are not afraid to face challenges here and they are the values and strengths Michael Staines would have brought from these shores and brought with him to An Garda Siochána. They are the values and strengths which have stood with us for the past 100 years and helped us to do our job and work with our communities,” he said.
Following the unveiling of the memorial to Michael Staines, a minute silence was observed in memory of past members of An Garda Siochána and the 89 members who have died on duty. This was followed by the raising of the national flag and the playing of Amhrán na bhFiann.