Gerry O'Carroll: I felt safe with an Uzi by my side, and today's gardai are entitled to the same
RANK-and-file gardai were out in force at the annual Garda Representative Association (GRA) conference this week.
High on the agenda was a motion demanding the reinstatement of the Uzi sub-machine gun for all armed officers.
The weapon was decommissioned in 2012 after garda management deemed it unsuitable for garda purposes. One of the reasons given was the danger of deploying it in a confined space.
Many members of the force are clearly still mystified by this decision. The Uzi was the mainstay of the Special Branch detective unit for more than half-a-century after replacing the ageing and unreliable Thompson sub-machine gun.
In the 1970s when I was a uniformed garda, I remember being on mobile bank protection roles with members of the Special Branch, one of whom always carried an Uzi locked and loaded.
During those turbulent years the IRA and other armed paramilitary organisations financed their activities north and south of the border by robbing banks almost on a daily basis.
As an unarmed garda on those patrols with the ever-present risk of armed confrontation, I can tell you I found it extremely reassuring to see my detective colleagues toting their weapons in full view.
With its rapid rate of fire and reliability it was a formidable deterrent and was much feared by the paramilitaries on all sides.
I cannot think of a single valid reason why this weapon was withdrawn from service. The explanation that the UZI was unsuitable in an armed confrontation that might occur in a crowded public space or in a confined room didn't wash with me.
In my time in the force I never witnessed or heard of any shooting incident involving this weapon that posed a threat or caused injury to any innocent bystander.
Over the past 10 years or more we have witnessed the growth in organised crime with the inevitable corresponding rise in murderous gangland turf wars.
This new breed of violent thugs go about their business armed to the teeth with deadly weapons. These range from military graded assault rifles to machine guns and hand grenades - effectively out-gunning the gardai.
The latest crop of psychopaths have demonstrated time and again that they have no scruples in confronting gardai.
In 2013 an armed gang shot Det Gda Adrian Donohoe dead outside the Lordship Credit Union in Co Louth. It was a brutal, premeditated and cold-blooded murder that shocked and sickened the whole country.
Det Gda Donohoe previously carried an Uzi, but it had been withdrawn in favour of a handgun. Would he have stood a better chance with an Uzi that evening? We'll never know, but the thought does occur.
The killers of Det Gda Donohoe and their ilk are still out there. We need to bring back the Uzi - or another sub-machine gun of similar power.
No-nonsense Judge Paul Carney did the State more service than most
Judge Paul Carney has retired from the bench after a long career. In his 24 years sitting in the courts, he presided over some 160 murder and rape cases.
This is more than any judge in the history of the State.
During my career in the force I appeared before him as a garda witness in a number of murder, manslaughter and rape cases.
To me, Mr Justice Carney was always what a judge should be - even-handed, dignified and wise.
He has a brilliant legal mind and was known internationally as a leading criminal lawyer. He was also a much respected academic and an adjunct professor in law.
He demanded and expected the highest professional standards from witnesses, gardai and legal officers in his court.
Mr Justice Paul Carney
Judge Carney hardly beamed from the bench, but despite his grumpy demeanour he was a compassionate man.
During his long and distinguished career he was no stranger to controversy himself.
He presided over many notorious cases that included the Lavinia Kerwick rape and the trials of Linda and Charlotte Mulhall, child-killer Wayne O'Donoghue and sex-killer Michael Bambrick.
The judge often found himself in the eye of the storm after some of his sentencing decisions in rape and manslaughter cases.
He also had, at times, a testy relationship with the Court of Criminal Appeal, whose rulings he disagreed with.
Over the years I became acquainted with Paul Carney on a personal level, and when I wrote my book The Sheriff he attended the launch.
Judge Paul Carney has done the State more service than most. I wish him a long and happy retirement.
Maria's a leading lady - I hope she finds true love
Maria Walsh won last year's Rose of Tralee competition. Her beauty, poise and elegance enchanted the judges and the hundreds of thousands who tuned in.
But she still can't find a partner. She says that women don't ask her out because they expect her to be too busy.
She's certainly busy at turning heads. At the VIP awards last Friday, Maria (above) won an award for being the Most Stylist Newcomer.
Although I'm far from a fashion expert, I expect it was well-deserved.
I had the pleasure of meeting Maria at a function in my hometown of Listowel, Co Kerry.
I was deeply impressed by her warmth and personality. She is a beautiful young woman and a marvellous ambassador for the Rose of Tralee.
That lovely girls contest will never be the same after Maria Walsh - but maybe she'll find true love.
LAST year, a little baby, Teddy Houlston, survived for just 100 minutes after he was born. His parents, Jess and Mike, from Cardiff, then donated the little boy's kidneys which were subsequently transplanted to an adult.
This extraordinary gesture is truly inspiring. What a legacy Teddy has left following his tragically short life.
JUDGE Nigel Cadbury made some outrageous comments at Worcester Magistrates Court in England last week.
A day after the body of Karen Buckley was found in Glasgow, he suggested that Karen "put herself in a vulnerable position" by drinking with friends. His remarks were insensitive and no doubt caused great upset to Karen's family and friends.