Interview with Assistant Commissioner Jack Nolan, An Garda Siochana

Mr. Jack Nolan is the Assistant Commissioner for Organisational Development and Strategic Planning and the Assistant Commissioner for the South Eastern Garda Region and is a member of Age Friendly Ireland’s high level advisory group, the National Integration & Implementation Group (NIIG).  He has 35 years service in An Garda Síochána serving in a variety of locations and functional positions from operational command, crime investigations to corporate development.  He is a former Director of Training and Development in An Garda Síochána and was head of the Garda College and the Garda Research Unit. He was previously the Chief Superintendent in charge of the Change Management Department where his responsibilities included the implementation of the Garda Síochána’s Change and Modernisation Programme.

Jack holds a PhD from Trinity College, in Organisational Change where his research interest focused on ‘The Dynamics of Collaboration in Large Scale IT Enabled Organisational Change”. He also holds a M.Sc. in Criminal Justice Studies from the University of Leicester, UK where his research interest centred on “The Civilianisation Process in Police Organisations”, a BSc in Social Science and a Diploma in Applied Social Science from the Open University.  A Certificate in Organisational Change from the IPA, Dublin, a Certificate in Strategic Human Resource Management from the IMI, Dublin and an Executive Diploma in Strategy Development from MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts are all part of Jack’s academic achievements.

He has lectured part time at Trinity College on Organisational Change, at the Garda College on Leadership and Change Management, at the Institute of Management, Dublin on Strategy and on several CEPOL “Topspoc” and FRONTEX programmes.  He is a member of the FRONTEX Educational Strategic Advisory Group and the Educational Committee of the Institute of Public Administration.  Jack became involved in Age Friendly initially through his membership of the former Ageing Well Network and then his subsequent appointment to Age Friendly Ireland’s high level advisory group, the National Implementation & Integration Group (NIIG)’.

What has been the most interesting aspect of your work to date on the Age Friendly programme?

The most rewarding part of being involved in Age Friendly Ireland is actually being involved.  I am able to contribute to the process of collating problems, issues and ideas that bring a collective approach to solving them. I was hugely impressed with one of the Health Route Initiative* and how an existing transport service can be used to make sure older people can get to hospitals, health appointments and clinics as well as getting from small town to small town when the national transport infrastructure might not be able to facilitate that.

Another key area of interest for me is communities. Communities in Ireland are still very strong, very vibrant and they care about older people within their own localities. An Garda Síochána has been happy to play its part because whilst the protection of all people is the key for An Gardaí, the protection of the older and vulnerable people is really important and needs to be continually emphasised.  Whilst this support can be delivered at grass roots level I think the ability of the different stakeholders that are members of the National Implementation and Integration Group can provide a platform for doing more.

How has being part of the Age Friendly Programme impacted on An Garda Síochána for the good?

Age Friendly Ireland is ensuring that older persons remain high on the agenda of An Garda Síochána. The fact that Chief Superintendents sit on the County Strategic Alliances ensures that the problems facing the older person are fully considered. For example, recently a Chief Superintendent approached me in relation to the forthcoming winter.  He highlighted that he wanted to plan for any extreme weather conditions and ensure that he had enough heavy duty vehicles to reach every older isolated person across the County. As a result of that we are able to plan with our traffic units to ensure he has the resources to get to older people.  That’s just an example of how being aware and cognisant of the ageing population has allowed us to future plan and be prepared. It highlights that the needs of the older person are on the agenda of an operational Chief Superintendent.  During the last heavy snow, three years ago,  An Garda Síochána were able to call on older people checking that they had enough supplies and that they were safe. So they are just examples of how it filters down.  What we are really interested in is ensuring that people are safe in their homes in terms of both personal and physical safety.  We don’t want people to have to worry about being broken into.  The incidences of it are quite low but the impact of it is very high.  If one attack happens in an area it reverberates across the entire area and the fear factor is something that is difficult to control after that.  Presence, Visibility and Contact from the Gardaí provide that reassurance to the older community.

Have you experienced any barriers in bringing the Age Friendly way of thinking to An Garda Síochána?

I don’t think I have experienced any barriers. I feel there is a huge willingness to engage in the Age Friendly programme and in recognising older people as a group and ensuring that the voice of the older person is high on the agenda.   However, there is a huge economic issue in the current climate and pressure on resources brings other pressures in terms of time.  But I don’t see any intellectual or conceptual challenges. Obviously the generation of funding to support initiatives on the ground is something that always needs to be looked at.  Philanthropic funding is finite and exchequer funding is limited so what I see as a key task for the NIIG is that they identify initiatives that have the highest impact and the highest value so that resources, effort, time and money is expended on things that really impact on the lives of older people. Practical initiatives such as the Crime Prevention Ambassadors programme that are cost effective, interactive, collaborative and high impact should be prioritised.  One other area that I would like to see further investigated and analysed is people with Dementia.  I would like to see how Age Friendly Ireland can further support the development and continuation of dementia services and awareness.  I would like to see more dementia specific day care and community services as I can see how the impact of dementia can really strike people and their wider families.

What advice would you give to any emerging Cities and Counties setting out on the road to becoming Age Friendly, and particularly the Chief Superintendents joining alliances?

This is a really worthwhile programme.  It dips beneath the obvious needs in an area and identifies opportunities to ensure that the older members of society can still feel valued. That they can still contribute.  This programme offers real opportunity for older people to feel reassured and know that the policing organisation in Ireland is there in collaboration with its partners to bring solutions across a range of themes including transport, safety and contact.  The Age Friendly initiative can offer communities the impetus to actually become a community again.  It might be as little as consultation, a meeting or a visit to encourage participation.  Most importantly I encourage all members of the Gardaí to become involved in the Age Friendly initiative and its implementation.

* Health Route Initiative – For more information on the Health route initiative please contact Eithne Mallin at eithne.mallin@fingal.ie