Policeman John Bannon puts his cupla focail to good use at Fleadh Cheoil in Derry

One of four Irish-speaking officers who helped to police the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Derry at last month’s Fleadh Cheoil was a Clonmelman.

One of four Irish-speaking officers who helped to police the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Derry at last month’s Fleadh Cheoil was a Clonmelman.

PC John Bannon was on duty at the first Fleadh Cheoil to be held in Northern Ireland.

He is son of Geraldine and Steve Bannon from Highfield Grove, Clonmel.

John is a past pupil of St. Mary’s primary school, the High School and the Central Technical Institute.

He worked in the former Market Tavern bar in the town centre before making the short journey as manager to Devane’s in Gladstone Street, across the street from his father Steve who worked in Mulcahy’s.

John then moved to Galway for some time, where he studied forestry as a mature student.

Almost 10 years ago he applied to join the PSNI, saying he wanted to try a different career, and he hasn’t looked back since.

According to his mother Geraldine he loves the job.

Ten years ago John, who celebrated his 39th birthday last week, was pulling pints in Clonmel at the Fleadh but his role was a very different one at this year’s festival, which attracted an estimated 300,000 visitors to Derry and was probably the biggest event ever staged there.

The city has a growing Irish language movement and during the week of the Fleadh a large influx of speakers from throughout the country and the world added to the numbers speaking in the native tongue.

In an interview John Bannon, who admitted that he didn’t get a chance to speak Irish too often in his job, said he now intends to sit A-Level Irish.

Fourteen PSNI officers in the North West District speak Irish.

The Fleadh proved a major success in Derry, which is this year’s UK City of Culture.

All-Ireland competitions in music and song took place along with concerts and gigs late into the night.

Tipperary made another mark at the festival when Richie Delahunty from Cahir won the Mandolin All-Ireland Championship.