Lucy Hayes, Dominic Hayes, Catriona Hayes, Dominic Hayes jnr and Sophie Hayes PICTURE: Vicky Comerford
Tributes have been paid to the Kilkenny garda chief superintendent Dominic Hayes, who retired from office last week.
The Tipperary man, who has led the Carlow-Kilkenny Garda division since 2015, was presented with a certificate of civic recognition at a ceremony on Wednesday. In a first for Kilkenny, the civic reception saw the offices of cathaoirleach and mayor combine to convey the honour.
Chief Supt Hayes was joined in County Hall by his wife Catriona and children Dominic jnr, Sophia and Lucy. Senior members from Carlow-Kilkenny gardaí joined councillors and council officials for the event, at which numbers were restricted and social distancing was observed.
Several speakers noted that under Mr Hayes’ stewardship, the division had recorded some of the lowest crime rates in the country. They also lauded him for pioneering a number of successful, high-profile operations such as Operation Citysafe and Operation Thor, and the emphasis he placed on community engagement and garda visibility.
Council director of services Tim Butler, who introduced the speakers, described Mr Hayes as ‘approachable, helpful, and to the fore of the community’ he served.
Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council Andrew McGuinness said the event was his first official presentation of civic recognition. He described it as a pleasure and great honour, but said it was also bittersweet.
“While we celebrate Dominic’s outstanding contribution, it is also a sad day for Kilkenny to say farewell to a person who has done so much for this city and county,” he said.
“There is no doubt that Kilkenny is a safer place to live, work and socialise in with crime falling dramatically since Dominic Hayes became our chief superintendent a little over five years ago. There is no need to take my word for that — the facts speak for themselves: When Chief Supt Hayes began his work in Kilkenny there were 5,000 burglaries a year, and now there are less than 400. The number of assaults has also dropped significantly.”
Operation Homesafe, said Cllr McGuinness, had contributed significantly to the reduction in home burglaries, while the text alert mapping system had seen him visit community centres and halls in towns and villages across the county.
“These achievements don’t come easily, and such success is down to great determination, dedication, efficiency and professionalism, which is all seen in Dominic and the fantastic team that work with him,” he said.
From left: Joint Policing Committee chair Cllr Pat Fitzpatrick, Cathaoirleach Andrew McGuinness, retiring chief superintendent Dominic Hayes, and Mayor John Coonan PICTURE: VICKY COMERFORD
In light of the recent challenges thrown up by the Covid-19 pandemic, Cllr McGuinness said community involvement had been to the fore.
“One thing I will always remember about this period is how our gardaí went way above and beyond their call of duty — collecting medication for those who are sick, shopping for older people that may be vulnerable, delivering donations to hospitals, even walking dogs for those cocooning,” he said. “The list is endless.”
Mayor John Coonan said Chief Supt Hughes was a familiar face on the streets of Kilkenny, and always came across as ‘approachable, unassuming, and professional to all’.
“You are widely known to have genuine empathy for the community you served, and more importantly, your actions and leadership have been pivotal to the dramatic reduction in crime we have all seen firsthand across the city and county,” he said.
Mayor Coonan also personally thanked Chief Supt Hayes for the support and engagement he had given the Kilkenny Age Friendly Alliance and Kilkenny Seniors Forum.
“As former chairman, I witnessed firsthand how passionate you were about their safety and welfare and for freely imparting invaluable advice to the members of our senior community,” he said.
The chief superintendent, he said, had actively encouraged a closer relationship between local government and the gardaí.
Mayor Coonan also took a moment to remember the late Detective Garda Colm Horkan, offering prayers and condolences to his family and colleagues, and the wider garda community.
Chairman of Kilkenny’s Joint Policing Committee Pat Fitzpatrick said that Chief Supt Hayes had been available to take a call ‘morning, noon and night’.
He said that when the chief superintendent had arrived in Kilkenny, crime and health had been the two biggest issues for people.
“Health is still there now, but crime is way down,” he said.
Cllr Fitzpatrick said he had met him early on and they had set out that day to build back community spirit, and that was what had happened. He also said Chief Supt Hayes had spearheaded the solving of some serious crimes that had been hanging over Kilkenny for years.
“He sat in many houses and in many halls around the county late at night or early in the morning,” he said.
“He is probably one of the most welcome Tipperary men in Kilkenny.”
Cllr Fitzpatrick recounted a moment from a meeting in 2017 with other JPC figures, which was attended by Deputy Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin, who upon noting low crime figures in the Carlow-Kilkenny garda division, described Mr Hayes as “one of the finest members of An Garda Siochana to ever wear the uniform”. He said that had made an impression on him.
“We hope that you have a very long and happy retirement and you will always be welcome in Kilkenny,” he concluded.
Chief Executive of Kilkenny County Council Colette Byrne said it was both a good day and a sad day. Noting that she and Mr Hayes had both taken up their respective roles in Kilkenny around the same time in 2015, she said there had been a very efficient relationship between the gardaí and the local authority over the past five years.
She singled out the high-profile royal visit to Kilkenny for special mention as an example. To the casual observer it would have looked a lovely and calm event, she said, but that was the result of a huge amount of work and co-ordination to make it a success.
“A huge level of work had gone into planning, and our royal visitors left Kilkenny saying it was probably one of the best places they had visited,” she said. “It was welcoming and it was safe.”
Ms Byrne noted there had been many, many festivals and events in Kilkenny where large numbers of people had come and gone safely having enjoyed their time here. There were also multiple emergency events, including floods and storms, and the most recent pandemic, which had required considerable cooperation and teamwork.
Chair of the Castlecomer Municipal District Michael McCarthy thanked the Chief Superintendent for his work in Kilkenny and especially his pioneering of ‘sub-JPCs’ at municipal level across Kilkenny.
“This was just one of the many examples how you laid a solid foundation and brought the gardai to the communities, this facilitating positive two-way co-operation,” he said.
“The results speak for themselves current statistics show crime at all levels reducing for the better. From day one whether in Freshford, Ballyragget, Urlingford, Castlecomer or Clogh you listened to the people and took on board the issues and concerns of both individuals and communities.”
Chief Superintendent Hayes acknowledged everyone’s comments and the honour bestowed on him. He thanked everyone for their work and said there had been a great team spirit involved over his five years. He said it was not about him, it was about the people around him, and he had many fantastic colleagues and friends.