Gay garda sacked in 1982 seeks apology and meeting with Garda Commissioner

Gay garda sacked in 1982 seeks apology and meeting with Garda Commissioner

A gay Garda who was dismissed from the force in 1982 is calling for a meeting with the Garda Commissioner for an apology and explanation surrounding the decision.

Speaking to Joe Duffy on Liveline, Matthew, who used an alias and had his voice distorted, told of a witch-hunt that occurred among the gay community during the time Charles Self, a well-known figure in the Dublin gay community, was brutally murdered.

Charles Self worked as a set designer for RTE and was attacked and murdered at his home in Monkstown, Dublin in January 1982.

"In 1982, there were a series of events that happened to me after the Charles Self murder," recalls Matthew. "After his murder, I was directed to go down to Dublin Castle and present myself before a Superintendent. I had and I hadn't gotten an idea of what it was about because while I was in the force, I wasn't openly gay, I wasn't on the scene, I didn't go to the pubs, I didn't do anything like that.

"I knew Charles Self, he lived in Monkstown and I lived quite close. We had a 'nodding' acquaintance relationship if you like, though relationship is too strong a word. But I was directed by my sergeant to go down to Dublin Castle and appear before the superintendent. He gave me a few tips to have my shoes well-polished and put on my good tunic...

"...when I went into the office, I can remember a very icy, stony atmosphere and I was told I was being investigated by conduct that would bring discredit to the force. I asked what was this about and he advised me to make a cautious statement and demanded I allow him fingerprint me, which I did.

"From memory, I was asked did I know Charles Self and I said I did and that was as far as it went. It was quite brief but it was an intimidating atmosphere for me. I was 22 years of age. I was worried about my future in my job that I absolutely loved."

Matthew explains how he was subsequently interviewed in Pearse St Garda Station where he was photographed out of uniform and finger-printed again, which he says was much more intimidating.

"There was actually a witch hunt against gay men to try and solve that murder which they never solved. In June 1982, two days before I was due to be attested, we were on nights, and on Wednesday night of that week, a sergeant and an inspector came into the parade room... and ordered me out of the room.

"My colleagues were shocked. I was given ten minutes to strip and get out of the station. No reason. Nothing. I left the station." Matthew said his sergeant advised him not to leave and come in for duty the following night and that the sergeant would fight it for him. "But I was like a rabbit caught in the headlights."

The day after, local Gardaí came to his home to remove any further items of Garda property such as his second uniform, a grey coat, a baton, his notebook and torch.

"They came down and removed the items and my life, really in the following ten years, spiraled downward. I started to get myself together after five years and I wrote to the Garda Commissioner asking to be reinstated and I got a letter back to say that they weren't going to reverse the decision at this stage. I'm actually looking for that letter, I may still have it."

Matthew insists he was never given a reason for being dismissed despite being a promising Garda with a bright future ahead of him. In the early 2000s, he sought a copy of his personal file but said the force wouldn't release it to him.

"They did invite me to view it under the supervision of a sergeant in the Phoenix Park in Dublin and I said no. It was my file, they were my details, there was information on me, I wanted it. But no way, they would not release it. This thing eats me up, nearly on a daily basis."

Gay garda sacked in 1982 seeks apology and meeting with Garda Commissioner

Matthew is still in contact with his former colleagues who are all retired now.

"I started writing in 2014. I wrote to GSOC to help me and eventually I got a redacted personal file. In that personal file, there is details of my conduct in Templemore when I was training.

"There are details of the interview conducted in the Garda station when I applied to join the Gardaí which would appear to me to be really insignificant, but the major thing, they don't have.

"I'll give you a line when I applied to join the Garda Síochána: 'Applicant is of excellent character and he has never come under unfavourable notice of the Gardaí . My inquiries show he is honest and sober.'

"I eventually got the redacted file in august 2014 and I still wasn't happy. It was still coming into my head. It was there the whole time. So I wrote again looking for a meeting with Garda Commissioner and again, that was last year, I was stonewalled.

"GSOC said they couldn't do anything for me. I was stonewalled with Garda headquarters. So I then copied all the documents to the Minister for Justice. Mr Flanagan, and I've been stonewalled there as well.

Matthew said that while the Gardaí didn't ask him about his sexuality, they questioned how he knew Charles Self. He struggled after the dismissal to get work

For the next five to ten years, I was in the gutter. I just cant describe it. Rock bottom is where i was. I just wanted to get on with the job. I loved it. I absolutely loved it.

"From that time I was dismissed, I was looking over my shoulder, and to a degree I was looking over my shoulder before that because I didn't want to let my mask slip. I felt I was living a lie."

Matthew sought helped and went to his GP, saying that alcohol was playing a large part in his life while he was living at home, with his parents under pressure. He has never told his parents he was dismissed, and both parents believed he left the force of his own accord. His father has since passed.

"The only people I've ever discussed this with is my GP, my psychiatrist, and my former colleagues. I gave up the drink in 1992 and I've never taken a drink since. That's when I decided to piece my life back together but the one thing I need closure on is why?

"I mean I look at Twitter and I see Gardaí are going to have two cars decked with the pride flag at the pride march next Saturday and it's a charade, having two cars in the pride parade. It's window dressing.

"I mean it's only 35 years ago i was treated like a pariah."

Asked whether the Gardaí should be involved in the parade as an institution, Matthew said they had a lot to answer for: "There are an awful lot of questions out there that are unanswered. I'm quite sure I'm not the only ex-member who was treated in a similar fashion."

Matthew now has his own business but admits that even in closest circle of friends, he isn't out, and they would have no idea that he is gay.

"After the Charles Self murder, I can distinctly remember the following morning I was in late at two o'clock, and my sergeant said to me, 'there was a bit of activity out your way tonight' and he meant the Charles Self murder and I just kind of brushed it off, I didn't want to get involved in conversation about it," he said.

"It never went away and it never will go away because the what if's are there. I read this file and unless it was written by Agatha Christie, you're thinking this fella is going to go to the top. I was certainly high up in my class.

While he never went to any bars, Matthew said he used to go to the Hirshfeld centre on Fownes street, an area known for gay men to frequent. He said his name must have been gotten from someone he knew or an organisation, but that he really didn't know why he was investigated, and the only thing that made sense was that the Hirshfeld centre was being observed by Gardaí , but admitted he didn't know anyone who did observe the area: "It was all cloak and dagger."

"I asked one of my colleagues who supported me, who rang me last night, had you any inclination as to my sexual orientation when I was working and he said no.

"I'm in a good place now.... but when I heard the coverage over the last couple of days [about Majella Moynihan] it brought it all back to stark reality."

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