Award for Assistant Garda Commissioner
The newly appointed Garda Assistant Commissioner, David Sheahan, who is from Wexford, has been recognised for his work in bringing one of Ireland's most notorious cities back from 'near anarchy'.
Asst Comm Sheahan, from Rathnure, received the Limerick, Person of the Month award, for April, after being acknowledged as a driving force in turning the city into a safer place to live.
In the Gardai for 30 years, Asst Comm Sheahan spent 10 years in Limerick, firstly as a Superintendent, in Roxboro, and then as Chief Superintendent for the Limerick Garda Division.
He received his accolade on Good Friday and speaking to this newspaper expressed delight at the recognition.
He said it was a challenge that he relished taking up when first appointed to Limerick, however, he also said there are many challenges still facing the Gardai throughout the country and that 'proper' community policing is the way forward.
A proud Wexford man, Asst Comm Sheehan hurled with Rathnure in the 1980s and he was also on the Wexford minor hurling team at the time. He is well known in county and in particular, Wexford town, having been stationed there as an Inspector.
From there he went to Waterford and Kilkenny before taking up the Limerick position. His interest in policing came about when he was working as 'a clerical officer with Wexford Corporation'.
'I was in the fines office and I used to see the process through from fines being issued to finality,' he said.
'We had six traffic wardens at the time and there were a lot of fines but it was something I enjoyed doing,' he added.
'My role was to pursue the tickets to finality.'
He went on to comment: 'An advert came out for the Gardai and I got such enjoyment out of the fines office that I thought I might try it.'
However, he enjoyed his time in the local authority: 'I would have liked to have stayed in the local authority but my contract expired that August and then that September, I entered the Gardai; that was in 1983.'
When he took up his role in Limerick he said the county was 'overrun by serious criminals'.
'I came up with a strategy to deal with it but I was lucky because the skill set [of the members] was there because they had been exposed to some serious atrocities,' he said.
He said communities become resilient because of what they experience but added that community policing is the way forward.
'I'm a firm believer in that,' he said.
'Communities become resilient but it's through working together that we can effectively tackle serious crime,' he said.
'If we invest in community policing we will see benefits.'
Asst Comm Sheahan revealed that a new policing strategy, due to be rolled out in the coming months, is being finalised at the moment.
He said a focus needs to be placed on how the Gardai 'can be more in tune' with the needs of communities but that can only happen with greater interaction between members and the areas in which they are serving.
With regard to his Person of the Month award he said he was overwhelmed to be acknowledged in such a manner but was quick to point out that it was recognition of the work done not just by him but also by his colleagues within the Gardai.
'When I went there I had a job to do and it's nice to be acknowledged after that period,' he said.
He also said his time in Limerick was among his most rewarding periods in the force: 'In that period of time I watched the city pulled out of near anarchy.'
He said he was humbled by the honour bestowed on him but said it was more recognition of the work done by the entire Garda organisation in Limerick as they got the lid back on a city that was out of control.