President Obama probably wouldn’t have got a bigger cavalcade through Cork, but then those travelling in a fleet of Garda vans accompanied by outriders, flashing lights, and sirens were also VIPs.
More than 30 sick children from Mercy University Hospital were given the full treatment by the gardaí, fire brigade, army, Port of Cork, and McDonalds.
Their smiles illuminated the city more than any flashing blue lights.
First up was a trip to see the Garda Dog Unit in action in the Mardyke where the celebrity performer was Snipe, the springer spaniel that sniffed out a couple of million euro worth of drugs and cash in his seven-year career.
Then, to Anglesea Street Garda Station, where they were sworn in for a day’s duty by Chief Supt Mick Finn who presented them with certificates, ID badges, and Garda caps.
The children got to see the workings of the communications room with its bank of CCTV cameras, the fingerprinting and firearms sections, and got to play with the controls of traffic corps motorbikes.
Asked what they wanted most to see, the Garda chief was told emphatically “McDonalds” — which will no doubt lead to a leak inquiry as that was supposed to be an end-of-day secret treat. “We’re enjoying this as much as they are,” said Chief Supt Finn.
First to be sworn-in were Luke Lenane, 9, and his sister Leah, 5, from Youghal who are among 55 people nationally with a rare metabolic disorder which precludes protein in their diet.
“They can’t eat meat, so burgers are out later, but they can have the curly fries and a drink,” proud mum Kim said. “I’m not sure if I’d like to be a garda, but I’m having great fun,” added Luke.
Liam Nana Asuncung, 7, from Carrigaline, who suffers from sickle cell anaemia, revved it up on the bikes and was hoooked. I’d love to own one,” he said.
Meanwhile, 8-year-old Michael O’Sullivan, from Skibberreen, who had a kidney and spleen removed, was thrilled with the gun display. He was even more impressed at Collins Barracks with the heavy artillery on show.
Comdt Larry Egar said the army was delighted to let them see “toys for big boys” and provided each child with goodie bags before they left for a Port of Cork harbour cruise.
The day’s events were organised by Insp Finbarr O’Sullivan of the Traffic Corps and Garda Pat Harrington from the Dog Unit.
Insp O’Sullivan said all involved were thrilled to put smiles on the children’s faces and thanked the Garda Credit Union and Centra for sponsoring the day.