THE first garda to be appointed a lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) liaison officer has told how he received "snide comments" from colleagues when they heard he was gay.
Garda Paul Clancy described how he was 'outed' by fellow officers before he had even joined his station in 2003.
"This resulted in snide comments, hushed voices and conversations suddenly ending when I entered the room; though having said that, the vast majority of my work colleagues have been very supportive to me," he recalled.
However, Garda Clancy is hoping his experience will help other members of the force to come forward if they experience any similar problems themselves.
"Some LGB find it hard to deal with such occurrences and find it helpful to talk to someone who has first-hand understanding," Garda Clancy explained in Garda Review.
He has been openly gay since joining the force at the age of 25 but felt at one stage that his sexual orientation could hold him back.
"I waited until I was 25 before I joined, under the previous age restrictions.
"I felt that being gay would hold me back or that I wouldn't be able to face the inevitable insults," he wrote in the force's main magazine.
"From the outside looking in, I believed that all police services were very heterosexual; and therefore anti-homosexual.
"In the last few years, I have seen a relatively large increase in the number of gay men and lesbians joining, partly due to the change in society's view of homosexuality," he wrote.
Not surprisingly, An Garda Siochana has been changing in tune with society.
Garda Clancy is a trained peer supporter and equality advisor within the force. What makes his role different from the employee assistance programme is that it focuses more on LGB issues within the force.
Any member of An Garda Siochana who has been harassed as a direct result of their sexual orientation has to be provided with direct assistance.
"In the future, there may be an LGB officer appointed to each region, offering similar support to members as employee assistance officers," Garda Clancy said.
"While we are gardai first, personal issues are recognised to affect our work lives.
"The bullying, harrassment and sexual document is a milestone in preventing and dealing with bullying in An Garda Siochana," he writes in the magazine.
"This is a significant step within our job to safeguard the well being of colleagues.
"It is one area where we are leading other police services in north-west Europe."