Investigators interview whistleblowers about links between gardaí and drugs gang for next tribunal phase
The next segment of the tribunal will deal with allegations of wrongdoing made by gardaí who feel they were targeted as a direct result.
Garda Keith Harrison will contribute to this phase of the tribunal and has already been interviewed by investigators over a number of days.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie
TRIBUNAL INVESTIGATORS HAVE begun to interview a number of garda whistleblowers ahead of the next phase, which will look at allegations that people who highlighted wrongdoing were negatively targeted afterwards.
In July it was confirmed that Justice Sean Ryan will replace judge Peter Charleton for the next phase of the Disclosures Tribunal.
Charleton had always intended to only deal with the first 15 terms of reference in the tribunal, most of which relate to Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Allegations made by Garda Keith Harrison were also considered.
This next phase will deal with any other complaints made by a member of An Garda Síochana who made a protected disclosure prior to 16 February 2017 and who feels they were targeted or discredited as a result.
Among those whistleblowers – and likely to be one of the most high profile witnesses in the next phase – is Garda Nicky Kehoe.
Garda Keogh was a drugs unit officer in Athlone when he made a formal complaint in 2014 to the confidential recipient Judge McMahon about garda collusion in the sale and supply of heroin in the region.
He has alleged that people in the town, who were not previously involved in criminality, were coerced into buying drugs in an attempt to boost drug-unit statistics.
According to Keogh, one particular member of the force was colluding with a criminal gang in the town and helping them to sell heroin in the region.
In October 2015, he made a complaint to the Garda Ombudsman about the manner in which this complaint was being handled internally.
A year later, John Mooney, writing in the Sunday Times, reported that the internal investigation had found evidence to substantiate Keogh’s claims.
“The inquiry has also established that a senior garda was warned about fears of corruption in the force by members of the drugs squad in 2009 but took no meaningful action,” Mooney reported.
The Director of Public Prosecutions ruled there was not enough evidence to prosecute those implicated in the investigation.
However one garda who Keogh made allegations about was suspended and his internal disciplinary investigation, as well as the Gsoc inquiry, is still ongoing.
Kehoe also claims an original case file on a case he was working on in 2009 was stolen from his desk and replaced with a new file.
In February this year, RTÉ reported that a quantity of drugs that went missing days after a seizure in Athlone reappeared six years later. It also reported that one of the gardaí involved with the initial raid is closely connected to the collusion allegations made by Garda Keogh.
Garda Keogh has been on sick leave for several years due to alleged harassment from senior management after he made his complaints. It is understood he has been interviewed over a number of days by tribunal investigators for this phase.
Round Two for Keith Harrison
Justice Sean Ryan will also deal with allegations made by Garda Keith Harrison that were not considered by Judge Charleton in his modules.
Harrison claimed gardaí had conspired with the child and family agency Tusla to interfere with his family life in Donegal as a result of his whistleblowing. Charleton dismissed these claims as “utter nonsense”.
However the judge did not delve into the allegations made by Harrison which he had claimed resulted in his treatment by senior gardaí – that is left to Judge Ryan.
Harrison, like Garda Kehoe, was also stationed in Athlone in 2009 when he arrested another garda – also a member of the drugs unit – for drink-driving.
He claims after this arrest, he was targeted within the organisation and that a number of people he previously arrested were approached and asked whether they want to to make complaints about him.
And he has alleged information regarding a garda inquiry into him was deliberately leaked. He was confined to desk duty for two years before being transferred to Buncrana in Co Donegal.
He spent two-and-a-half years on sick leave from work but returned in April last year and is stationed in Milton, Co Donegal.
Harrison has been interviewed by tribunal investigators on six separate days over the last three weeks.
Justice Charleton’s full report for his phase of the Disclosures Tribunal is expected next month but it is not likely that Judge Ryan will begin hearing from witnesses for the next segment until next year.