Ireland rugby Grand Slam hero Niamh Briggs has been hailed for helping steer children living in two of Limerick’s troubled estates away from crime and into sport.
Niamh, 28, is a community Garda based at Roxboro Rd station. Twice a week, she takes up to 25 boys, aged from eight to 15, from Ballinacurra Weston and Southill, to Garryowen rugby club where they train at rugby and soccer.
It emerged yesterday she does this extra night work in her own time, and without any extra pay.
Chief Supt David Sheahan said of Niamh: “You can’t buy that kind of spirit, and the spirit Niamh displays in her duties at Roxboro Rd is the same type of spirit she displays on the rugby field.”
He was speaking at a special reception for Garda Briggs to mark the Grand Slam success of the Irish women’s rugby team.
Niamh said: “The kids are great and it’s great to get them out of the environment they are used to. Bringing them together playing sport, there is no better way for them to be off the streets. They love it and at first they were big soccerheads and I couldn’t get a rugby ball into their hands.
“But last week they went off playing in a rugby blitz and won it. We are all the time looking to increase the numbers as it gets the kids off the streets, playing sport. They are a pleasure to have and I love doing it and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it.”
Funding is provided for the “Garryowen Project” by the Shane Geoghegan Trust, Limerick Regen-eration, and the gardaí.
The children are given a hot meal at the end of each training session.
Niamh said: “A big target of mine over the next year is to get girls into the Garryowen Project, which take place during the school year.”
Chief Supt Sheahan said: “Most of the work Niamh does with these kids taking them to rugby and soccer lessons at Garryowen rugby club is done in her own time, not getting paid overtime or anything.
“The people of Ballinacurra Weston and Southill appreciate having her in their midst working with the children. Niamh and her community garda colleagues are so well got in the community, and the contribution they make to society would be very hard to repay. It’s part of the job that does not get the recognition it deserves.
“A lot of community policing goes unnoticed in many ways, but without that community work in tandem with investigations we carry out, we would not be as effective as we are. Crime in Limerick has changed for the better dramatically over the past three years and the kind of work Niamh does, and her colleagues in community policing, plays their role in the way it can help to bring down the crime levels in an area.”
Assistant Commissioner Tony Quilter and other senior officers attended yesterday’s tribute to Garda Briggs and her parents Geraldine and Mike travelled from the family home in Dungarvan, Co Waterford.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved