The unusual case of Stephen Magee, who was jailed for impersonating a garda – he was caught when he pulled over a car with two plainclothes gardaí in it – was brought up on Liveline when Joe Duffy spoke to a man called Eddie Cummins, who contacted the show. Joe jumped right in, asking Eddie if he impersonated a garda. Eddie didn't see it that way:
"I wouldn’t say I impersonate a garda, no, but I’ve had occasion – I mean, this is just a symptom of the problem that’s happening on the road at the moment, where people are just paying no – any blind difference to the rules of the road or the laws that we have to keep motorists and pedestrians and cyclists safe."
Eddie believes that Stephen Magee was unlucky to have pulled over a car with two gardaí in it, but he told Joe that he’s had numerous experiences of calling the gardaí to report dangerous driving and being frustrated by the response. Recalling the incident that made him lose faith in reporting dangerous driving to the gardaí, Eddie told how he was on his bike in heavy traffic on one particular day, waiting at the traffic lights, when a car came from the opposite direction on the wrong side of the road:
"There were cars backed up behind me and he went through the red light, through people who were crossing on a green light, you know, the green man, turned right through another green light – because the green light was for pedestrians on both sides, all along the junction – and went on and got stuck in traffic."
So Eddie rang the Gardaí, looking to report an incident of dangerous driving. The garda he spoke to told him that, in his experience, these reports rarely come to anything and most people withdraw their complaint. That’s when Eddie decided to look at other options:
"What I do now, Joe, when I’m cycling along and somebody I see who’s infringed or whatever, like, occasionally people come into the cycle lane I’m in outside of the hours they’re supposed to, you know what I mean? And I just go up and I tap on the window and I say, 'How are you? You know you just came into the lane?’ Sometimes they nearly knock you off your bike. I say, ‘I just want to let you know, there’s a garda up on the corner there took your number, so you can expect a penalty point and maybe an €80 fine. And was it really worth it for saving yourself two or three minutes?’"
There have also been times, Eddie said, when drivers have really annoyed him and he’s knocked on their windows with a subtly different message:
"Now, they can take whatever inference from what I’m saying, but I’ve said, ‘I’m on duty shortly, you know, so you can expect a warning from the Guards, maybe a penalty point and a fine for what you’ve just done.’"
Eddie’s rationale is that he’s on his way to work, so he’s "going on duty". But, Joe tells him, the driver, upon hearing that phrase, would naturally assume that Eddie is a garda himself. This subtlety is not lost on Eddie:
"He may presume that. He may very well presume that, yeah."
He’s yet to be challenged by a motorist. Indeed, Eddie recounted another incident when a car failed to clear the road to allow an ambulance with lights and siren blaring get by. When he caught up to the car and knocked on the window, the driver told him he regretted not making way for the emergency vehicle:
"I eventually caught up with him after about two miles, knocked on the window and I said, ‘I’m not really happy with you.’ He said, ‘And I’m not really happy with myself.’ I said, ‘Well, you know, that could have been your mother or your father or your relation, anybody.’"
You can hear Joe’s full conversation with Eddie – as well as other callers’ reactions to it – by going here.