I WONDER how many men are left in Donegal who joined the Garda in 1922, when the force was founded? And of the few there may be, how many did all their service in Donegal? I met one the other day who could answer affirmatively on both counts.
Patrick McInerney, now in retirement and living in Letterkenny, where he spent part of his service, belongs to O’Callaghan’s Bridge in Co. Clare. He joined the Garda at the formation of the force — he still recalls the day, 22nd May, 1922. His first station was Ballyshannon; a short sit, as it turned out. He moved in on 14th October and was on the transfer list by December 12th. Then it was a brief stint in Pettigo (where my picture was taken) and shortly it was on to Carrick, in 1923. He remained there until 1927 when he moved to Ballintra. Some years there, and the next posting was Letterkenny. Promotion came on transfer to Castlefin and Sergt. McInerney spent spells in Burnfoot and Quigley’s Point before going for his longest service, to Moville. Retiring in 1961, he continued to live on there for some years before coming back to Letterkenny, the home town of his wife, a member of the well-known McClay family of Oldtown, formerly a nurse in the then District Hospital.
Pat, a man with a vivid memory for places and people, could fill a book with reminiscences of his years as a policeman in Donegal, a county he came to love and where he was held in high regard wherever duty took him. He holds two medals of which he is very proud. First, his old I.R.A. medal then the plaque and medal presented at the jubilee celebrations in Dublin to mark the fiftieth year of the existence of the force. This was awarded only to those who had served from the first year. There are few others in Donegal who hold these two much cherished mementos. In retirement, time does not hang heavily on him; when the opportunity is right and the weather inviting he does his daily spot of gardening.
There are seven in the family; a son, Father Matthew McInerney, is parish priest of St. Mary’s Church in Brighton, in the south of England. A keen angler, he manages a run home twice a year. At present he is busy with an extension to the church and a new presbytery is being built, a £100,000 project which entails a succession of fund-raising schemes. Another son is an Assistant County Engineer with the Co. Council.
Having seen service in so many places in Donegal, Pat knows it even better than his native Banner county and still recalls his days in the different stations and the firm friendships formed. He had no ambition to spend his retirement anywhere else.