Tuesday 22 October 2019
Collusion whistleblower questioned closely on lengthy list of grievances, some serious Allegations here?
The latest module of the Disclosures Tribunal has its roots in allegations of local police corruption. But its findings, whenever they are reached, could potentially have wider ramifications, with the reputations of several current and former senior officers at stake. These include two former Garda commissioners, Nóirín O’Sullivan and Donáll Ó Cualáin.
For the past week, the story has unfolded at Dublin Castle, where Garda Nick Keogh has given evidence about events after his explosive protective disclosure in May 2014.
The garda has alleged he was bullied, harassed, targeted and discredited as a result of blowing the whistle. He has been off duty since December 2015 due to work-related stress.
A member of the force since 2000, he joined the district drugs unit in Athlone in 2009 before rotating back to regular policing duties in 2011.
Three years later he made a series of allegations to Judge Patrick McMahon, the then confidential recipient for An Garda Síochána. Much of his concerns related to Operation Loki, aimed at drug suppliers in the Athlone area.
He claimed a former drug unit colleague, known as Garda A, had a relationship with a drug dealer, known as Ms B, and tipped her off about a planned search of her home.
Gda Keogh alleged Ms B had a turnover of €2,500 a week from the heroin trade, but had no convictions due to being “aided and abetted for years by a senior member of the drugs unit who himself is a close associate of a high-ranking Garda officer”.
The tribunal heard Gda Keogh also alleged that in one operation a suspect was misidentified and this led to the wrong person being arrested. He alleged statements were amended to glide over the misidentification. He also had suspicions about the planting of evidence in another case.
The tribunal is not investigating these claims. Instead its focus is primarily on the alleged treatment of Gda Keogh after his disclosure.
This will include the adequacy of the internal Garda investigation into his claims.
Mr Cualáin concluded some of the allegations were plausible and had substance, but the evidence fell short of what was needed for a prosecution.
Gda Keogh has claimed there were “serious and deliberate flaws” in the investigation, including a delay during which evidence disappeared.
Tribunal counsel Diarmaid McGuinness SC said Mr Ó Cualáin and his investigators had answered these complaints in detail. Their responses are expected to be outlined at a future sitting.
A key issue for the tribunal will be whether the criticisms of the investigation are justified and, if so, whether they constitute targeting or discrediting of Gda Keogh by Mr Ó Cualáin.
The tribunal heard Gda Keogh intermittently went sick with work-related stress while the investigation was ongoing. A factor in this was that he was working in the same station as Garda A, who was not suspended until October 2015.
The tribunal has divided Gda Keogh’s grievances into 22 “issues”. Mr McGuinness has been questioning him closely on each one.
Two of the issues have been dropped by him since Monday.
These include an allegation Ms O’Sullivan, when she was commissioner, instructed officers to “pull away from” and “alienate” him. Lawyers for An Garda Síochána had argued there was no evidence to support the claim.
Several of the remaining issues relate to the alleged treatment of Gda Keogh by Superintendent Pat Murray.
Gda Keogh told the tribunal he believed Supt Murray “was sent in there to get me out of Athlone” so Mr Ó Cualáin could “do the investigation whatever way he wanted to investigate”.
Supt Murray has vehemently rejected the allegations made by Gda Keogh and maintains he was seeking to ensure high standards in his division.
One of Gda Keogh’s complaints was that he was placed under “micro-supervision” by three different sergeants at the direction of Supt Murray.
He said he had no issue with the sergeants and that “Garda management” was responsible for how he was treated.
Pressed further, he said: “I mean the persons at the top are the people I hold responsible. Nóirín O’Sullivan is the commissioner, and ultimately she is the person in charge of An Garda Síochána at the time and this is all going on.”
Gda Keogh also believed his police work was minutely criticised by Supt Murray and that queries raised by the superintendent about his work were oppressive and irrational.
The tribunal heard details of a number of investigations where he was the subject of queries and criticism.
Gda Keogh felt his time in the force was coming to an end and that no matter what he did at work, he was going to be “pinned in”. He feared he was going to be scrutinised to such an extent that he simply wouldn’t be able to function.
The tribunal continues.