As one of the longest serving members of on An Garda Siochana, Carrick-on-Suir native Larry O’Hara, understandably has mixed emotions about his last ever shift in Mitchelstown, this coming Saturday.
It was here that the fresh-faced graduate from Templemore commenced his career more than four decades ago, and so, it is fitting that Larry, who turns 60 in November, returns here to spend his final few hours on market day.
Originally from Sheskin, just outside Carrick, Larry followed in his late father Michael’s footsteps, joining the force on November 29, 1972. His older brother Brendan entered the previous year, and Larry admits that he was probably influenced by his father and brother’s career choice. With encouragement from his late mother Mamie, he never looked back.
After two years in Mitchelstown and some shorter stints elsewhere, Larry spent 30 years stationed in Ballyduff Upper, Co. Waterford. He treasures his time there, where he was a true commmunity garda.
“My thing was always to look after locals, and visit elderly people in remote areas, and I always got good local knowledge and information from them, when I needed it,” he said, acknowledging the important role of gardai in such areas. Larry was transferred to Kilworth in 2009, but the decision to close Ballyduff Upper station earlier this year, one of 95 similar stations earmarked for closure by the Department of Justice, has left a sour taste in his mouth.
“Closing these stations is a grave, grave error and they [Department of Justice] will seriously rue the day they made that decision, losing the local knowledge and losing out to the thugs,” said Larry.
A career of such length has brought many highs for Larry, including the role he played in the the apprehension and arrest of armed raiders who stole over IR£15,000 in 1998 from the TSB in Clonmel. He also lead the search party after another armed raid in Mitchelstown AIB, which lead to the arrest of three of the five armed gang members. Performing his duties during the visit of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were other stand out moments. But there were also some low points, and Larry recalls the sad death of colleague Garda Michael Clerkin, with whom he served in Portlaioise, who was killed in an IRA booby trap in 1976 as one of them.
A music lover and avid musician, Larry enjoyed balancing work life with playing music in venues all over Munster down through the years and is hopeful that retirement will afford him more time to pursue this passion. But he will miss the day job.
“I would do every minute of it again without hesitation,” he said.
“I will be sad, I will miss the friendshio of the lads I worled with and the public I worked for.”
Larry will celebrate his long career this Saturday night at the Firgrove Hotel with wife Helena, sons Jamie and Austin, extended family, friends and colleagues. And who knows, he might even play a tune or two aswell.