IPA UK’s Kiran Gharial enjoys a fabulous Irish Friendship Week

24 Aug 2022


irishfsw2I first heard about IPA Ireland’s Friendship Week from 19-24 April 2022, to celebrate the centenary of An Garda Síochána, in December 2021. Having been to Ireland in 2014 for the section’s 60th anniversary celebrations, I decided to register for this trip.

Eventually, the big day had arrived, and I departed from Stansted to Dublin. At the airport, I was transferred to the luxurious ‘Knightsbrook Hotel, Spa and Golf resort’ in County Meath, about 45 kilometres from Dublin city centre, where all participants were accommodated. After a short resting period, there was a social gathering followed by dinner with IPA members from Germany, France, the USA and Latvia – a good opportunity to meet police personnel and introduce ourselves.

On Wednesday, we departed for a visit to An Garda Síochána’s Headquarters in Dublin City. We were invited to the Technical Bureau, where we were fortunate enough to have a guided tour of the Ballistics and Fingerprints departments. The ballistics section was one of the first offices set up in Europe, and all homicides are investigated in this building.

Lunch was kindly provided in the staff canteen, after which we went on a visit to the Garda Museum, which entails an interesting exhibition about the history of An Garda Siochána and the Memorial Gardens, which honours members of police killed in service of the state, whose names are inscribed in stone within the Gardens. Both places are next to Dublin Castle. Following this was a visit to Kilmainham Goal, a former prison which held petty criminals as well as political prisoners, including leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, involved in Ireland’s struggle for independence. With the day’s busy schedule complete, it was time to head back to our hotel for dinner, followed by an evening out on a brilliant Irish pub-crawl!irishfsw3

Thursday began with a trip to the Heritage Centre in the medieval Town of Kildare, which included a magical virtual reality experience – “Legends of Kildare”! Afterwards, we went on a walking tour of the town and experienced St Brigid’s Ale tasting in a local pub. For lunch, we made our way to the glorious Irish National Stud, where horses have been born & bred on the 800-acre site since 1900. Colonel William Walker, who had a passion for racehorses, set about turning the Tully land into one of Europe’s premier studs, housing some of the world’s finest stallions.

A guided tour of the stables was followed by a visit to the Japanese Gardens on the same site. A colourful and spiritual portrayal of a soul’s journey from birth to death.

In late afternoon, we visited ‘Solas Bhride’ – a Christian Spirituality Centre with a focus on the legacy of St. Brigid. A popular destination for pilgrims and visitors. Next, a brief stopover at St. Brigid’s well, to collect some ‘holy water’, for good luck! With a drive past the military museum, it was time to return to our hotel for dinner and another late evening trip to a local traditional country pub – a 20-minute walk around the corner. Great atmosphere!

On Friday, following breakfast, we headed off to Dublin City and started our itinerary with a tour of Pearse street Garda Station, which happens to be at the centre of Ireland’s most crime-ridden district. We were allowed access to the custody suite and cells, as well as a visit to the front office, C.I.D and frontline-policing quarters. In the afternoon, we had a walking tour of the city centre and some free time for shopping etc., including a stopover at Guinness brewery.

Saturday started off with a trip to the ‘Battle of the Boyne’ (which included a guided tour). This was a battle, in 1690, between the forces of King James II of England & Ireland, VII of Scotland, and those of King William II, who had acceded to the Crowns of England & Scotland in 1689. The conflict took place across the river Boyne and resulted in a victory for William. This turned the tide in James’s failed attempt to regain the British Crown and aided in ensuring the continued Protestant ascendancy in Ireland. Afterwards, we headed off to the village of Slane, within the Boyne Valley of County Meath, where we had a guided tour of the castle and the distillery.

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The castle, which has been the family seat of the Conyngham family since the 18th century, holds the Slane festival. U2, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Queen, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and Oasis have all performed in the natural amphitheatre on the castle grounds! After a busy day out, we returned to our hotel to round the week off with a drinks’ reception and banquet – following the end of IPA section Ireland’s National Council Meeting.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Brendan Matthews, Owen Ganly, Ann Liston, Declan & Jen O’Byrne and all the local volunteers for their kind hospitality, as well as to congratulate IPA section Ireland on the success of their friendship week to celebrate the 100th anniversary of An Garda Síochána.

Kiran Gharial, Social Secretary 9 Region - IPA UK