Inspector Matt Minogue
Detective Inspector Matt Minogue works in the Garda Murder Squad, in Dublin. The Gardaí, or Garda Síochána, ‘guardians of the peace,’ are Ireland’s national police force.
Minogue is often taken for a bit of an iijit. He is OK with that. It’s good cover. After all, Minogue is a terrier disguised as an easygoing, old-school Irish policeman.
Minogue grew up on a small farm in a remote part of County Clare, on the west coast of Ireland. Intent on escaping that life, he took up work as a barman in Dublin to earn some money for departure for America.
Things were decided soon after, however, when he met Kathleen. His exile in Dublin was very bearable if he could be with this Dublinwoman. It was she who persuaded him to give the Guards a try. His lacklustre career there almost ended when he was injured in a bomb explosion.
Recovering afterwards, Minogue was visited by a friend, Jim ‘The Killer’ Kilmartin, head of the Murder Squad. Tthe wily, blustering Kilmarti reluctantly took a chance on Minogue, and thereby he discovered his Squad’s best investigator.
Minogue in turn became an unofficial therapist for the larger-than-life Kilmartin, to the extent of rescuing Kilmartin from the consequences of his traits and his general carry-on, both on the job and off.
Minogue’s burden was eased by the arrival of Tommy Malone, a Dubliner who quickly became a target for Kilmartin’s acid wit about Dublin ‘gurriers.’ Malone grew up in a single parent household in a Dublin working class area.
Though a ‘culchie’ himself, Minogue and Malone became partners in several key cases.
Malone unconsciously recognises a proxy father for the one who abandoned the Malone family. That same abandonment may be a clue to why Malone’s twin Terry became addicted to drugs and subsequently died of an overdose.
Minogue enjoys a pint of stout and a Jemmy but often worries about being overly fond of the drop. He quit smoking when their first child Éamonn was born, but craves them yet.
His and Kathleen’s despair at the crib death of the infant Éamonn gave way to joy at the arrival of Iseult, a daughter with a temperament too reminiscent of the wilder Minogue ancestors, and a son Daithi.
Minogue long ago jettisoned any belief in the God he grew up with, but his take on things harks back to the naturalism of a preChristian Ireland.
It dawned on him that he lives a strange paradox: his success at clearing murder cases and teasing out truths comes from his own unconscious urge to revenge his child’s death so many years ago.
Chief Inspector James ‘The Killer’ Kilmartin
Kilmartin looms large physically and as a stereotype of certain Irish males. He’s a shrewd, tough, hard-nosed, old-style copper. Community policing, social workers, probation officers - all these earn his sarcasm and fury.
Kilmartin often resorts to bluster and even belligerence. He has been known to pursue extreme means to secure leads, suspects and convictions. Kilmartin knows that he is not highly regarded by the new Commissioner, Tynan, and he’s uneasy about Minogue’s friendship with the same Tynan.
He and Minogue go back many years. Minogue is the only person who can be direct with him. Minogue will even call Kilmartin out as The Mayo Bullock, in reference to Kilmartin’s origins in County Mayo, a place so best by poverty and hardship in former centuries that it was often referred to as ‘Mayo, God help us.’
Despising Dublin as he does, and being openly averse to Dubliners, Kilmartin pretends to regret the hiring of Tommy Malone into the Murder Squad. His digs at Dubliners are a staple of repartee in the Squadroom. Nicknaming Tommy Malone as Molly, after the famous Dublin ballad of Molly Malone, is one among a steady stream of jabs.
Kilmartin relies on Minogue to put up with him and to at least remind him of ethical alternatives - and to pull him out of some blunders, personal and occupational. Humbled by a life event in a later Minogue story, Kilmartin escapes dismissal -barely - . but through the intercessions of his colleagues Minogue and Malone.
His subsequent efforts at self improvement are not to be relied on, though. He is temperamentally ill-equipped to undergo any kind of transformation like the one Minogue has made, when he turned his suffering and rage about his infant son’s death into a fierce determination to deliver justice to murder victims.
Detective Garda Tommy ‘Molly’ Malone
Tommy Malone presents as a dog-rough, drop-dead working-class Dubliner. In his mid thirties, he still boxes, poorly enough, in the Garda Boxing Club.
Cocky, but an alert, fast learner, Malone takes his job a bit too personally. He sees the gangsters who run Dublin now as enemies of his people, the working-class families trying to make a decent future for themselves.
Malone remains unmarried. Though a twin, he has the caretaker personality of an elder son. This role came too easily and too tragically - his brother Terry died of an overdose. Indeed it is to Terry that other coppers spitefully advert when they size up the Dubliner Malone as a colleague.
Malone is comically inept at relationships with women. He accepts that there is something about him that puts people on edge. Despite this, he has found a soul-mate, or believes that he has. Sonia Chang is the daughter of a Chinese-Irish family who runs one of Dublin’s better known restaurants. Their unlikely bond deepens in spite of her father (‘The Great Wall’) voicing his disapproval for their relationship.
Wry and sparing in his dialogue in the Squadroom, Malone is different when he is partnered with Minogue, a man he respects, with whom he can let his Dublin street-smarts, his drop-dead humour and his vulnerable side, show.
He still refuses to believe that he has what a psychiatrist told him was ‘more than a touch of the old PTSD.’ As a result, Tommy's early morning nightmare awakenings - his ‘half three divils’ - will shortly drive his fiancee to abandon him.
Detective Garda John Murtagh
A diligent, athletic slogger, Murtagh likes his data and his computers - and also chasing nurses in Dublin’s wild nightclub scene. He is often given the job of pulling information together and taking the helm (‘hold the fort, John’) in the Squad when Minogue and company hit the streets.
Sergeant Fergal ‘Plate-Glass’ Sheehy
A Kerryman of serpentine ways, it is often said of Sheehey that he might go enter a revolving door behind you but that he will come out of the same door ahead of you.
Garda Tom ‘Jesus’ Farrell.
Farrell is a graduate of many hair-raising episodes in his former posting to Border patrols and organized crime task forces. A bachelor, Farrell is horse-mad: he owns shares in a horse named ‘Stick-up’.
Farrell’s nickname came from an episode where he single-handedly took out a duo of armed bank-robbers. One of these robbers turned out to be Farrell’s boyhood friend. Waking after surgery, he clapped eyes on a figure sitting by the bed reading a paper - Farrell. The wounded soon to be defendant then piously uttered the Holy Name, then wondered aloud if he were alive or in hell or both, and closed his eyes again.
Detective Garda Shea Hoey
On secondment to Juvenile Services. Hoey needed a break from the Squad. Hoey made that journey across the Styx (Ireland’s river Shannon, dividing the ancient, forgotten West of Ireland from the modern East) with Minogue in ‘All Souls’ to make a raid on the underworld and the past... as an antidote for his own failed suicide-attempt.
Shay (Séamus) Hoey was Minogue’s side-kick in the early Minogue stories. He suffered so much stress in the job that he needed to transfer out. He is much happier now, married and working in school outreach programmes where he can make use of the dazzling card tricks he is so good at.
Éilís (pron. eye-leash ie Elizabeth)
Eccentric, Gitanes-smoking native Irish (Gaelic) speaker, Éilís has a tongue that would peel paint. Though a 'mere' clerical worker, she is capable of running the Squad single-handedly.
Commissioner John Tynan
Tynan, aka ‘The Monsignour’/’The Iceman’ studied to be a priest many years ago. In roaring Dublin especially, awash with gangsters and drug money, Tynan has his hands full.
Having taken note of Minogue in a murder case, he seeks him out to hear candid feedback of more rank-and-file operational Gardai. This practice along with others unnerves other senior Guards, including Kilmartin.