Granard became the first town in the country to host a Garda organised diversity event with the LGBT+ community. Rebecca Tallon De Havilland was the guest of honour at the function at she hails from the north Longford town.
Such was the seriousness the Garda treated the event in John V Donohoe’s pub that Assistant Garda Commissioner Orla McPartlin, who is in charge of community relations, was present as were several other members of the force, including Granard Superintendent Seamus Boyle.
Sergeant Michael Hogan, a community and diversity officer in Granard station, organised what is hoped to be the first of many such events throughout the country. Last October, An Garda Siochana held a national diversity conference, which he attended. “At it we heard from members of the LGBT+ community. In one of the presentations we heard that approximately 10% of the population identified as LGBT+,” he explained.
“I did not know of anyone in Granard district who were members of the LGBT+ community,” remarked Sgt Hogan. “However, while I was going around the business premises in Granard delivering posters for the event, one lady told me her son was gay, and two others that their brothers were gay. So from the beginning the plan is working to get to know people and for them to get to know us.”
Assistant Commissioner McPartlin said she was delighted to attend the event. “It was great to be in Granard and talking to all the people there supporting the LGBT+ community,” she noted. She revealed that last year the Commissioner launched the diversity integration plan for the next three years. She added: “It’s important the Gardai in places like Granard that work with the communities across all of the diverse areas and people with disabilities or any other issues.”
Superintendent Boyle said that as someone who was born and raised in Granard it was nice to see a place which had had bad times in the past have some good news for a change. “Looking back over the years in Granard, would this have happened 40 years ago, 30 years ago, 20 years ago? No, it wouldn’t,” he insisted. “It has to be a great reflection on Granard and the community. This event has opened a lot of doors.”
He continued, “There hasn’t always been good news from Granard but by God this is a good news story and I hope the message goes out that An Garda Siochana and the people of Granard welcome diversity.”
Guest of honour Rebecca Tallon De Havilland who had travelled over from her home in London for the occasion explained, “When I got the phone call from Mick (Sergeant Michael Hogan) I thought – ‘What had I done wrong?!’ When he explained what he was doing and I told people in London, they thought it was so historical that we did this in Granard, and for me it was an honour to be there.”
One of those at the event was Sarah Jane McNaboe, who runs the WYLD youth group in Longford for LGBT+ people. It has 17 members who attend weekly meetings. “It was very good to see this event in Granard,” she admitted. “It was a nice night and lovely to have a lovely lady back giving her positive message. The Guards are very proactive and to be highly commended, especially the community officers.”
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