TRIBUTES have been paid following the death of former Garda Commissioner and Inishowen native Eamonn Doherty who will be laid to rest today.
The Moville-based senator said while attaining the Garda Commissionership was the pinnacle of his career, many would remember Eamonn Doherty for the "common touch" he exerted.
"There were volumes of untold work that he did in very many fields that he was involved in during his working life and post his retirement in 1988. His passing marks the end of an era, the ending of a strong advocate for Inishowen in Dublin."
Honoured guests, Guests, Ladies and gentlemen,
Eamonn Doherty was awarded the 2006 Ireland Medal in recognition of his work as Royal Life Saving Society Ireland Regional Chairman and for his reorganisation of Air Sea Rescue through The Doherty Report.
Eamonn had to leave Waterford shortly after the medal ceremony to attend a garda funeral and as a consequence the Foundation board of directors organised a dinner in Dublin for Eamonn, some family members and RLSS members who had worked with him in the 1980’s.
This was a most enjoyable evening and after the meal as the chairs were being organised into a large oval shape in the hotel lounge it happened that Eamonn and I were slightly isolated from the main group. He leaned towards me, took my hand and said ‘you’re doing great work’.
I felt that this was an opportunity to ask him a question I had wondered about for 25 years – why he had not resigned as RLSS Chairperson on his appointment as Garda Commissioner.
He really didn’t have the time to deal with us and must have been under pressure to resign from a ‘Royal’ organisation. This was Ireland in the 1980’s during the height of what we call ‘the troubles’. All of us who were the public face of the RLSS in Ireland came under such pressure.
When I asked him he shrugged it off with a ‘it was nothing’ response, indicating that he didn’t wish to discuss the matter. I felt embarrassed at having asked him the question and there was a short silence. He then leaned over and quietly answered my question. His answer was something like this...
“You are aware that the RLSS has strong connections with the police in Britain and all police officers receive lifesaving training. As Deputy Commissioner and Commissioner I attended many meetings with senior British police and security officers.
The talk at these meetings was all about how we could defeat unionist and republican paramilitary forces; success was measured in ending or greatly reducing the killings and bombings; I felt that there was no real belief that both sides would be able to work together successfully.
At a food break during one such meeting I suddenly said out loud to the person next to me that I chaired an Irish organisation, that they were all familiar with, in which individuals from the northern unionist tradition and southern nationalist tradition worked together harmoniously in a humanitarian cause.
In surprise they asked what organisation and I replied ‘The Royal Life Saving Society in Ireland’. Lifesavers from the north and south trained together and competed together as a single team, both sides putting aside their political and religious differences in a common cause.”
He remained in office as RLSS Chairperson until ill health led to his retirement in the 1990’s.
Eamonn must have been a nightmare for those responsible for his personal security.
Stories such as the one where the head of Metropolitan Police’s Security Section was entering Harrods to do some Christmas shopping when the door was held open for him by Eamonn. ‘You’re not here’ he stuttered to Eamonn; ‘no one told me you were coming over. You have no security’’ ‘Eamonn replied that if the head of Scotland Yard’s security section doesn’t know I’m here what chance do the paramilitaries have?
Eamonn’s private secretary once told me, when I was trying to arrange a meeting with him, that the majority of the appointments in his diary were pencilled in as being provisional until he confirmed them, usually that morning. This was his security strategy – if he didn’t know where he would be prior to any day how could someone trying to kill him plan for it.
It obviously worked, except that, RLSS meetings between the Northern Ireland and Republic branches in Dundalk had to be arranged 14 days in advance. He seldom missed a meeting and must have trusted that those who knew about his attendance at the meetings would not publicise the information.
He used his status and his forceful personality to ensure that the society remained active in the Republic as it does to this day.
When someone retires they usually ‘take it easy’ and ‘slow down’.
On his retirement as Garda Commissioner Eamonn was appointed to the European Task Force on Drugs in Brussels, was Patron of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, and Chairman of Cospoir, the Irish Sports Council.
It was his work as chairman of a commission to investigate and update Irish air sea rescue that gained most publicity – this was The Doherty Commission, which produced The Doherty Report recommending that air sea rescue be removed from military control and civilianised under Coast Guard control.
Before the implementation of The Doherty Report, helicopters were based in secure military bases; search and rescue took second place to military needs. Governments commission many reports which usually remain on some library shelf but within a very short time Eamonn’s report was adopted and acted on.
New rescue helicopters were placed where they were needed for safety purposes, in places like Shannon Airport for the south west and Waterford Airport for the south east, instead of where they best suited military or security purposes.
I’m from Waterford, and recently the government announced that it was removing the air sea rescue helicopter based at Waterford Airport to save money. A campaign to keep the helicopter service was successful and the status quo restored but before the Doherty Report those in peril on the sea off our south coast, be it south east or south west, were dependent for rescue on RAF helicopters from Wales or the Irish Air Corp from Dublin.
Shakespeare wrote ‘that the good men do is oft interred with their bones’ – not so for Eamonn Doherty.
Eamonn is sadly gone but thanks to his work lives will continue to be saved from drowning for many years to come. Whenever you hear a low flying helicopter and looking up see a red and white coastguard helicopter overhead you will be looking at Eamonn Doherty’s greatest legacy to the people of Ireland.
We honoured Eamonn by presenting him with the 2006 Ireland Medal but the truth is that he honoured us by accepting it and by taking the time, when his health was fragile, to be with us, not once but twice.
Please stand for one minute’s silence in his memory.
The Garda Commissioner, Fachtna Murphy, has expressed his sadness at the death of former Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, Eamonn Doherty, who was a native of Donegal.
A former Donegal Person of the Year Mr. Doherty passed away early this morning following a long illness and the Commissioner extended his sympathies to his wife, Patricia, daughters Deirdre, Patricia and Fionnuala, sons Colm and Eamonn and his extended family including siblings, nieces, nephews and grandchildren.
The late Mr Doherty was born on the 12/12/1923 in Buncrana, County Donegal. He joined an Garda Siochana in 1943 and spent 45 years in the service retiring in 1988. Mr. Doherty was the first member of an Garda Siochana to train with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
He subsequently was the first Training Officer appointed to the then new Garda Training Centre at Templemore in 1964. He was Commissioner of an Garda Siochana from November, 1987 to December 1988.
During his time in an Garda Siochana Mr. Doherty was very involved in sport and subsequently became chairman of Cospoir the Irish Sports Council.
On retirement he was the Irish Governments nominee to the E.U. Task Force on Drugs. He also chaired the Doherty Commission which led to the transfer of Air Sea Rescue Service from the Irish Air Corps to the Irish Coastguard. In 2006 he received the Ireland Medal Award from the Royal Life Saving for his work relating to this commission.
He was Donegal Man of the Year in 1987 and was Irish American of the Year in Chicago in 1987. He was also a Patron of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association.
The Commissioner said:
“I offer my condolences to Eamonn’s wife and family. Eamonn had a full and productive life, 45 years of which he gave in dedicated commitment to An Garda Síochána.
Throughout his distinguished career, he consistently demonstrated a high level of professionalism and dedication to the community.
This continued to be a marked feature of his life following his retirement from An Garda Síochána in 1988. In everything he did, he worked to make a difference to the lives of others in a spirit of public service.
Eamonn gave great leadership to An Garda Síochána during difficult times and his important contributions in areas such as training and sport influenced many careers and helped mould this strong organisation.
He will be remembered fondly by his many friends and colleagues."