Authority is a privilege

Debenhams protest

I had just dropped my son off in town having brought him to say “Hi” to my mum from her driveway on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of all of this COVID lockdown.

I was glad to be out and about, and decided to take the long way home to extend my rare excursion in the car.

Brendan told me that there was a coffee shop that was open at the bottom of Barrack Street (Cork), so I decided to pop down that way. There were a few standing outside in a queue so I passed on that option and went about my journey home.

I was on Proby’s Quay with a plan to turn right and head out home via Western Road but there was a one-car tow truck pulled in just before the turn right, so instead I opted to swing left past Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral and take the College Road route instead.

As I swung left I noticed that the reason the tow truck was there was they had been stopped by the Gardaí – their car was in front of the truck, just before the traffic lights. Bad place to pull someone in I thought.

I drove up the hill and took a right onto Gillabbey Street where I had to stop as the lights were red. I was really surprised to see two Gardaí pull up alongside me in their car, gesturing to wind down my window.

Were these the same Gardai who just seconds ago were in front of the tow truck? If it was the same two, they must have been quite determined to follow me I was thinking.

I dropped my window to get an accusation hurled at me “You broke a red light!“.

I was astonished and very confused by this as I knew it was not true and was wondering why they were making such a false claim.

It was amber when I went through, it was not red” I replied firmly

These two clearly didn’t like being disagreed with..”We saw you, it was red

Pardon the pun about this disagreement about colours but there was no “grey” here and I was in no mood to agree with something I knew was wrong.

I didn’t go though on a red, it was amber” I repeated.

The Garda who was driving then barked across to me “Do you think it’s ok to drive through on an amber, do you, do you?“.

I don’t break red lights” I repeated.

These two were now really annoyed with me.

Go through the lights and pull over” I was instructed.

The Garda approached my window, put on his blue gloves and asked for my licence, which he inspected and then he walked around my car checking the tax and insurance and everything else.

He once again came to my window and handed me back my licence, scribbled in his note book and told me I would be receiving something in the post in so many days. To be quite honest, I’m not really sure what he said.

At this stage I was really upset and felt that I was being picked on for some reason. I was minding my own business on this quiet, nothing COVID lockdown Sunday and from nowhere I get this “treatment”.

Were they chasing a quota of fines, did the interaction with the tow truck just a minute earlier wind them up, did this guy with a big mop of curly hair driving a nice car look suspicious and they needed an excuse to pull me over or was it just hassling for the sake of hassling?

I said to the Garda that I felt I was picked on for some reason and he denied it. I repeated my accusation and that was the last of our interaction.

A week later I still can’t figure it out, but what I do know is that it really upset me being accused unfairly of something I didn’t do, and I do know that it left me with a really bad feeling towards these Gardaí and in truth a very unhealthy, unreasonable feeling towards Gardaí generally – is this what many of them are like?

(I know that’s not true, but this is what I was suddenly feeling)

Up until this point I was four square on the side of all Gardai doing such Trojan work at this time, with the difficult job of maintaining social distancing and basically keeping us all safe. I couldn’t believe how disgusting and wrong it was for anyone to abuse a Garda doing this work and to those who actually spat at them…I’m sorry, they deserve the worst.

Now, I thought about how other people must feel if they are accused unfairly, the damage that must cause their mentality, including that legacy feeling towards authority.

My little interaction was a tiny thing, but I certainly know how it felt, so what must it feel like to people who are being picked on all of the time because of where they live, how they look or the colour of their skin?

In the following days I read some media reports on social media about the Gardai telling the employees of Debenhams who were protesting peacefully and clearly maintaining their social distancing to move on.

Without knowing the details I had already decided who was wrong here and I found myself retweeting “The Gardaí should butt out and let people who had been wronged to protest peacefully“.

Authority is a powerful thing, it is a privilege to those who have been given it, and it should always be exercised carefully, respectfully and honestly.

When this doesn’t happen, everything falls apart.

Greg

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service Marketing, PR, Graphic Design and Digital Marketing agency with offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

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7 Responses to “Authority is a privilege”

  1. Fergal Bell Says:

    I just read this post today, Greg. It’s become even more relevant in light of the protests in the States and around the world. Like you said, it was a minor incident, but imagine if this type of thing happened regularly and became more aggressive? You’d understand people feeling aggrieved.

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