‘I had five attempted suicides’: Majella Moynihan speaks about her treatment by An Garda Síochána

‘I had five attempted suicides’: Majella Moynihan speaks about her treatment by An Garda Síochána
Majella Moynihan

A former Garda who became pregnant ‘out of wedlock’ by another member of the force in 1984 spoke about the "horrific abuse" she suffered.

Majella Moynihan told RTE radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show that in the wake of her treatment by the force she tried to commit suicide on five occasions.

“They thought they could break me, but they didn’t. I’m a strong woman. I’ve worked so hard over the years. They no longer have a hold over me. Today I’m free.”

When asked if she would consider seeking compensation she said telling her story had not been about that.

“This is a new beginning for me. I’ve told my story after 35 years. It’s difficult to consider compensation at this stage. Would I be happy with compensation? Yes.”

In a lengthy interview during which Ms Moynihan broke down in tears on a number of occasions, she said that as a trainee garda in Templemore she and her colleagues were never cautioned that they should not have sexual relations “we were never told that to do so would bring the force into disrepute.”

She also said she had never known of the existence of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and had not been approached by welfare officers in Store Street garda station where she worked at the time.

“I was very much alone in that period of darkness.”

Ms Moynihan went on to recount how she had stayed with one of her four sisters for a period of time when pregnant and then went to Galway to have her baby, an arrangement that was organised by the agency CURA to whom she had turned for help.

“They wouldn’t give me the epidural. I was in horrific pain. I was ripped apart. I felt like I was nothing to them. When David was born they just took him from me. I felt like I was a nothing in Galway hospital, they treated me like I was nothing.”

She said that she often wondered if she had been supported would she have kept her baby.

“It’s a decision I regret to this day.” In 1989 she said she was told by an assistant commissioner that she was never going to get on in the gardaí.

“I knew I was being punished by the gardaí. I don’t think he was being nasty, he was being realistic.”

Ms Moynihan said she welcomed the news that Garda Commissioner Drew Harris will meet with her.

“I really appreciate the fact that he’s going to meet me. I can’t understand why my file was redacted and why two years ago I was told that my file had been destroyed.”

On telling a female garda inspector that she was pregnant, she was taken off the beat and placed in the collating office where information was recorded. Her two male colleagues in that office were “extremely supportive”.

However, at that time she felt lost. “I was living out of my body.” She said that she knew her colleagues were talking about her and that there would be whispers of “hush” when she came into a room.

“I was never once asked how are you? How are you coping?”

At one stage, a year after her son was born and given up for adoption, she was told by a superior officer “if it ever happens again you’re sacked.”

She said she experienced horrific abuse during the disciplinary hearing for the father of her child.

“I will never forget that. There were six men in the room. The only other woman was a stenographer. It felt like an eternity, if felt like I was in there for hours.”

On being asked if she had ever discussed what happened to her with the father of her child, she said when she had attempted to do so, he had said “leave the past in the past.”

She felt as if she were “the guinea pig.” There was an attitude that she would serve as an example. “We’ll show other women that this is what will be done to you.”

If the father of her child had not been a garda “things would have been completely different. Guards are supposed to have higher morals. We weren’t human, we shouldn’t have been attracted to the opposite sex. It’s mind-boggling.”

Ms Moynihan also said that she had been shunned by many members of the force and had experienced considerable sexual harassment.

“I feel that they portrayed me as an easy woman so they could say and do whatever they liked to me.

“After David was born an officer said ‘if you’d had an abortion you wouldn’t have brought disrepute to the force.’ I went to Templemore to protect life and property. There were double standards.”

Since she left the force in 1998 she has gone back to college where she studied anatomy and physiology and she is now a reiki practitioner.

“I am very much in the healing profession. This is a new beginning to me.”

Commenting following the interview, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) "expressed its highest admiration for the dignity and bravery" of Ms Moynihan, saying she "laid bare a litany of shocking and disgraceful behaviours on the part of the Garda Siochána".

"The GRA of today distances itself from any implication that Majella had done anything wrong and would robustly defend any attempt to victimise a woman on the grounds that led to the disciplinary hearing against her," a spokesperson said.

Former garda Majella Moynihan happy with apologies but 'they 'should have come to me first'

‘I had five attempted suicides’: Majella Moynihan speaks about her treatment by An Garda Síochána

Former garda Majella Moynihan has said that while she is happy with the apologies she received from Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, she would have preferred if they had contacted her directly.

Ms Moynihan’s treatment by An Garda Siochana when she became pregnant ‘out of wedlock’ by another member of the force in 1984 was revealed in a documentary broadcast on RTE radio at the weekend.

She was internally investigated for a breach of discipline and was later charged with two counts under the 1971 Garda Síochána Regulations. The charges related to premarital sex and giving birth outside of marriage.

After the documentary was broadcast she felt “so overwhelmed” she told RTE radio’s Morning Ireland this morning.

“The response has just been phenomenal for me, I knew it was a big story, but I didn't think it would get the coverage that it has got. I'm just overjoyed.

“I kept it secret for so many years because I had so much shame and now it's no longer my story of shame, it's their shame and I feel so vindicated. I'm so grateful to the people that heard me and believed my story and the Doc on One team, I can't thank them enough.

“Back in 1984 when I was pregnant and the treatment that they inflicted on me, I knew it was wrong, and for many years I've done counselling, I've done a lot of work on myself and I always felt within me that I had to tell my story, not only for me but for other women.

“The treatment of me was horrific abuse and no woman should ever, ever have to go through it, I'm so grateful that I had the courage and I just hope that it will empower other women that have been through similar situations to come forward and tell their story.”

She said that she was happy with the apology from the Commissioner, “but I feel that the apology should have come to me first, a personal apology. I feel very hurt that Commissioner Harris still hasn't contacted me and it's been 24 hours.”

Asked if she'd like to meet Commissioner Harris in person, she said "I think for healing for me and for my future and for what I have felt what the guards have done to me, where I feel yes, it's of vital importance that I meet Commissioner Harris, that he meets me, and he apologises to me and he also gives me a written apology. Yes I would be happy, I would be content with that.”

She said she hadn’t heard directly from the Minister for Justice either, “I haven't heard from anybody and I strongly believe and I strongly feel that both of those people should have come to me first.”

The day she entered Templemore (the garda training college) was the happiest day of her life, she said. “Walking in the gates of Templemore, I wanted to go in and change the injustices of things that were going on in our country and the way people were being treated and all of this.

“I believed, as the person I was at that stage, that I could have done that and I still believe that I could have done that, if I hadn't been treated so badly by the Gardai.

“The one thing that I believed so strongly from them was that I discredited the force, that was to me the most horrific thing that they could tell a 21 year old because I didn't discredit the force, but I believed I did. They had that strong power over me.”

Ms Moynihan left the force in 1998. “I felt a sense of empowerment, I had been horrifically violated and abused within that system and it went against me and my truth and what I believed and that day that I signed that sheet of paper I found a part of me again and I remember saying it that day, they no longer have hold over me. I am Majella and I will be who I'm meant to be. I couldn't be that within the organisation that destroyed me.”

Later on Morning Ireland Antoinette Cunningham of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) said it was “very wrong what happened to her.” She commended Ms Moynihan for telling her story and hoped that by doing so she derived some measure of comfort.

“It was hugely brave of her. As a mother and a garda I am deeply shocked by the story. The invasive questions that were asked about her private life.”

The AGSI wanted to show their support even though Ms Moynihan had not ever been a member of the association, added Ms Cunningham. “Nobody deserves to be humiliated in the workplace, be they female or male.”

Times are different now with changes in legislation and cultural differences, she said.

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