An Garda Síochána na h-Eireann (Guardians of the Peace of Ireland), the police force of Ireland more commonly referred to as the Gardaí or “the guards,” is formed on February 21, 1922. The service, originally named the Civic Guard and headquartered in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, is headed by the Garda Commissioner who is appointed by the Irish government.
The Civic Guard is formed by the Provisional Government in February 1922 to take over the responsibility of policing the fledgling Irish Free State. It replaces the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the Irish Republican Police of 1919–22. In August 1922, the force accompanies Michael Collins when he meets the Lord Lieutenant in Dublin Castle.
The Garda Síochána (Temporary Provisions) Act 1923, enacted after the creation of the Irish Free State on August 8, 1923, provides for the creation of “a force of police to be called and known as ‘The Garda Síochána.'” Under section 22, the Civic Guard are deemed to have been established under and are to be governed by the Act. The law therefore effectively renames the existing force.
While most recruits to the Garda come from the ranks of the Irish Republican Army, which had fought against the RIC, about one hundred ex-RIC men become part of the new force. Problems become apparent when some recruits do not conceal their dislike of the ex-RIC instructors and refused to salute them. On May 15, 1922, over 1,200 recruits break ranks during Morning Parade, seize the armoury, and take over the Kildare Depot. Negotiations between the mutineers and the Provisional Government of Ireland over control of the force lasts seven weeks, during which time the Irish Civil War has begun. Commissioner Michael Staines resigns in September and is replaced by Eoin O’Duffy.
During the Irish Civil War, the new Free State sets up the Criminal Investigation Department as an armed, plain-clothed, counter-insurgency unit. It is disbanded after the end of the war in October 1923 and elements of it are absorbed into the Dublin Metropolitan Police, which was founded in 1836.
In Dublin, policing remains the responsibility of the Dublin Metropolitan Police until it merges with the Garda Síochána in 1925. Since then the Garda has been the only civil police force in the state now known as Ireland. Other police forces with limited powers are the Military Police within the Irish Defence Forces, the Airport Police Service, and Dublin Port and Dún Laoghaire Harbour police forces.
The Garda medal of honour, the Scott Medal, An Garda Síochána’s highest honour, is named after Colonel Walter Scott, the American philanthropist that endowed the fund for the original medals.