*Photograph: John Mangan
In a week where a documentary on whistleblower, Maurice McCabe cast a dark shadow on An Garda Síochána, one member of the force has been hailed for his service to Co Clare.
On Monday, a mayoral reception was held for Chief Superintendent John Kerin ahead of his upcoming retirement. Warm tributes were paid by elected members of Clare County Council to Kerin in front of his family, friends and colleagues.
Welcoming Kerin to the Chamber, Cathaoirleach Michael Begley said “His role as Chief Superintendent bears huge responsibility but John is not one to shirk from a challenge. He has invested a lot into his community, JPC, charities, fundraising efforts for Clare hurling, he is a community leader in every sense of the word. Above all I know you’re a family man, this county will always be indebted to you”.
“If we did have an issue, you were always available. As a person you’ve always been extremely approachable. I will miss the fact that you’re no longer in the station”, Cllr Ann Norton commented. She advised him “be careful on the bike” as he devotes more time to cycling on the roads of Clare. Her words were reiterated by Cllr Paul Murphy, “Key to enjoying life is spending time with family. If you couldn’t answer the phone, you replied fairly quickly. I look forward to seeing you out on the bike”.
Independent Cllr Gerry Flynn added, “You have been a great servant to the county, furthermore you have survived. It is ok for us to put forward ideas and proposals, it is you out there trying to protect the community”. Cllr PJ Ryan recalled his two years working on the Joint Policing Committee with John, “he has common sense in abundance, a sense of humour, he always see policing through a community perspective which is very important. In the future we’re going to miss him in Clare, whoever takes over his job will have very big boots to fill”.
Fine Gael’s Mary Howard labelled John “the voice of reason”, she added “I’m going to miss you so much”. Fianna Fáil’s Clare Colleran Molloy stated he “had a fabulous career in the Garda Síochána”. Cllr John Crowe said Kerin was “one of the most genuine people I have ever met, a real team player and a true Clare man”.
“You have kept the people of Clare safe under your watch. Politics is always open after retirement, you would never know where you would end up” remarked Cllr Tom McNamara. Responding to the suggestion, Council CEO Pat Dowling joked “A small bit of advice, stay away from politics, I couldn’t stand sitting here looking at you. There is no doubt you will be missed in Clare”.
Cllr Pat McMahon noted “It is highly unusual that the Chief of Police is so popular. John in his time has looked after world leaders, All-Ireland homecomings, the Fleadh. We’re lucky to have a Clareman as our Chief, a practical man in a gentle way”. “With the resources you had you brought down crime, you fought drug lords and made Clare a safer place to live. You always responded”, declared Cllr James Breen. Fellow Independent, Cllr Christy Curtin said of the successor to Mary Fitzgerald, “You have been a loyal servant to the nation, you have done Clare proud, you wore that uniform with pride”.
According to Cllr PJ Kelly, “It is very hard to get suitable words to pay tribute to someone who has done so much. He was superskilled there was no doubt about it. Many others in higher positions today could take a page from his book”. Cllr Gabriel Keating spoke of getting to know John through his involvement in the GAA, “A great tribute that he reached the top of his profession”. Sinn Féin’s Mike McKee added, “You served as Chief Superintendent under very difficult circumstances with so many cutbacks during your term but you handled them very well”.
Senator Martin Conway was also on hand to applaud the Belharbour native. “What John Kerin has done over the years is incredible, he has managed to espouse all the traditional qualities of An Garda Síochána but combine modern style of the police force. I would describe him as a man ahead of his time”. Conway was adamant there is a further role for him “when he gets retirement out of his system”.
Addressing the Chamber, John Kerin said, “I’m truly humbled and honoured with the reception and kind words that have been spoken which is truth that politicians can speak untruths. It is time for change, there is a new voice required in the dressing room, I have been around for 41 years, in Clare for 17 years”.
In February 2010, he took on the role and it is a move he very much is thankful he made. “I never looked to come back to Clare, I was always happy where I was, the opportunity came up and I grasped it, it was the best thing I ever did. I have worked with four CEOs, I couldn’t speak highly enough of them, where would be without them, it doesn’t matter what’s happening in Clare the Council is involved”.
Since joining the force in 1972, John was worked under 22 Garda Commissioners. Reflecting on his time in Clare, he spoke of his pride at seeing the rates of crime drop but he stressed that this was achieved by the entire Garda force throughout the county. He is worried about the lack of community involvement by Gardaí today as they are no longer live in the areas in which they work, “I was very anxious that as many guards as possible got involved in the community, it is sad to see so many Gardaí travel long distances to work from Galway and other places, it is a fact of life now that people commute”.
In his view, Gardaí passing out from Templemore today have a much tougher time than when he first put on the uniform. “No other organisations deals with what the Gardaí deal with, we have some of the happiest occasions and also some of the worst. We rarely went to a suicide, self harm or domestic incident in my time starting out. We have an 88 percent satisfaction rate from members of the public. Gardaí are reflective of society, we have to spend a lot of time to deal with admin but I worry dealing in common sense is diminishing. Recently one of our oversight heads said the people of Ireland get the police force they deserve. We should reflect society and give a person a break if they deserve it”.
Growing up he never expected to have the role in which he will soon retire from. “As a youngster coming to Ennis selling potatoes on a Saturday morning, I never thought I would end up as Chief Superintendent, my mother said the only reason I studied was to get away from picking potatoes. I’ve been really lucky throughout my life, lucky that I was born and reared in the Burren, I consider the people up there as the finest people God has put on this earth, I’m blessed with my friends and blessed with my family”.
He thanked his wife Joan for standing by him “through thick and thin” and moving with him wherever he was assigned whether it was Mallow, Clonmel, Templemore, Kerry or Limerick. “No matter where I have gone she has followed, if I had my life all over again I don’t think I’d have moved as much”. John said he intends to stay in Co Clare and hopes to have a healthy retirement. When he concluded, he received a standing ovation from all gathered at Áras Contae an Chláir.