Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Ban Gardai Len and Eileen Hayden

When the announcement was made in 1958 to appoint a woman’s police force in Dublin it was apparently overlooked by the national press that women police in England and Ireland had been in existence since the first World War. The English policewomen were brought into being to deal with the influx of Belgian refugees during the 1914/’18 war. In Dublin the Royal Irish Constabulary authorities appointed a number of policewomen shortly before the Treaty of 1921 and the last of those appointed retired in 1956. The role of the policewomen who were assumed into the Dublin Metropolitan Police after the Treaty was to watch for pickpockets and shop lifters, escort women prisoners and deal with delinquent children. Two years after the last Dublin based policewoman retired the Garda Siochana authorities decided to recruit Ban Gardai for the first time. It follows almost a decade of attempts by Gardai to improve their working conditions. The improvements which followed included pay increases and the right of serving Gardai to vote in local and general elections for the first time. However, despite the improvements in pay the strength of the force at the end of the 1950s was less than 6,500 as many of the men who had joined the Gardai on the setting up of the State were retiring during the 1950s. Their Garda pensions were inadequate and so many retired Gardai went to work in England. Here in Athy I can recall Sergeant Duggan and Garda Dunne, both taking the emigrant boat after retiring to take up employment in London. The Ban Gardai recruited in 1959 and trained in the Garda depot in Phoenix Park consisted of 12 recruits, amongst whom was Athy girl Len Hayden. Len, otherwise Helen, was the eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Paddy Hayden of St. Patrick’s Avenue. Len’s father Paddy Hayden and her uncle Sean Hayden were active members of the Irish Republican Army during the War of Independence and Sean served time in prison for his involvement. After leaving St. Mary’s Secondary School she taught as a substitute teacher in Arles. Her successful application to join the Ban Gardai saw her joining another Athy recruit, the legendary county footballer Mick Carolan, in the Garda depot for training. Mick would go on to become a Superintendent and is now living in retirement in Dublin. Len was initially posted to Pearse Street Garda Station in Dublin and subsequently to Cork. The newly recruited Ban Gardai did not normally do night duty but instead were on standby duty during night-time. They were generally assigned duties relating to children and female offenders. Pay for the policewomen was less than that payable to their male counterparts. Ban Garda Len, with colleagues Sarah McGuinness and Peggy Tierney, were promoted to the rank of Sergeants within a year. The marriage ban which applied to all State employees was still in force when Len married after four years service in the Garda Siochana. She was required to resign from the force. By the late 1970s Ban Gardai received equal pay and no longer had to retire on marriage. Strange as it may now seem married men or women could not join the Garda Siochana until that restriction was removed in 1979. However, those changes were too late for Len Hayden and many of her colleagues who joined the force in 1959. Thirty-two years after Len Hayden became a Ban Garda the term was officially dropped and today both male and female members of the force are known as Gardai. The story of the Hayden family involvement in the Garda Siochana started with Len, but continued with her younger sister Eileen who at 21 years of age joined the Gardai in 1964. Eileen retired from the service in 1981. Coincidentally both Len and Eileen married members of the Garda Siochana. Another Hayden family link with the Garda Siochana is provided by Garda Laura Hayden, daughter of Len and Eileen’s only brother Patrick who lives in Naas. Much of the family information for this article comes courtesy of the former Rita Hayden who is married and living in Lucan. Rita has generously given in the past and again recently background information on the Hayden family’s involvement in the War of Independence and the Garda Siochana connections. Paddy and Sean Hayden, with their colleagues in the struggle for independence 1919-1921, are remembered in the War of Independence exhibition currently running in the Heritage Centre Athy. Paddy Hayden and his brother Sean served the yet to emerge State in the pre truce days, while Paddy Hayden’s daughters and granddaughter were and are part of a force which as predicted by the first Garda Commissioner Michael Staines succeeded ‘not by force of arms or numbers, but on their moral authority as servants of the people.’

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