THE drugs squad detective who plays the part of an undercover officer in 'Love/Hate' is to be investigated for a possible breach of garda discipline.
Kieran O'Reilly, a member of the Garda National Drug Unit (GNDU), made his debut as garda Ciaran Madden in the second episode of the new series on Sunday night.
But Commissioner Martin Callinan yesterday ordered an internal disciplinary inquiry into the officer's involvement in the hit RTE show, which was watched by 880,000 viewers.
Under the Garda Code, acting is not a prohibited extra-curricular activity and it is understood that the officer took part in filming while on official leave earlier this year.
The 'Love/Hate' producers said they were "deeply shocked" that an investigation had been launched, and stressed that the highly regarded detective had no advisory role in either the storyline development or script-writing.
It is understood that disciplinary papers were served on Mr O'Reilly when he reported for work yesterday.
This document officially informed the officer that his involvement in the 'Love/Hate' series is to be the subject of an inquiry.
The commissioner appointed a superintendent to conduct the investigation after meeting with senior officers in garda HQ.
Yesterday, the Irish Independent first revealed that the 34-year-old detective, who had never acted before, landed the major role when he auditioned for a part on a whim last year.
The producers say they were instantly impressed by his "natural ability and screen presence".
Last night, Hollywood actor Brian F O'Byrne, who plays Detective Inspector Mick Moynihan, praised Mr O'Reilly's "rare natural talent" as an actor, describing him as an "extraordinary find".
The Tony-award winner said of his co-star: "As an actor, Kieran possesses an ease, a fluency and creativity on set that belies his novice status. In fact, it does the opposite, it marks him as someone exciting to watch in what I think will be a long career."
However, O'Byrne, who is originally from Mullagh, Co Cavan, revealed that the serving garda may be torn between his love for the day job and his fledgling career as an actor.
Speaking from his home in Los Angeles, he added: "This fella has enough raw talent to go all the way if he wants. But it's tough – he also loves being a guard."
O'Byrne said that his own garda friends were delighted with the show's gritty realism.
"The reaction I've been getting from guards I would have known is that they're delighted that the organisation is being portrayed in such a positive light – I think a lot of guards have been fed up with the fictional portraits of them as a bunch of gorms.
"It's great that 'Love/ Hate' is showing how the guards really do tackle the crime gangs."
The show's creator/ writer, Stuart Carolan, also paid tribute to the garda. "Kieran is an amazing actor. We didn't set out to cast a guard, he came through the audition process."
Sources close to 'Love/Hate' yesterday stressed that Det Gda O'Reilly had no advisory role on the scripts.
An insider said: "Everyone is shocked that there is an investigation going on. None of the stories in 'Love/Hate' are inspired by cases in which Det Gda O'Reilly was involved. In fact, the script for series four was fully drafted long before he even auditioned.
"Nor was he involved in any way with any previous seasons of the show. He simply decided to try his hand and audition but never expected to be picked for a part.
"We have been getting huge positive feedback about his performance on Sunday night and he is going to be playing a much bigger role as the drama intensifies in the next four episodes."
Det Gda O'Reilly has been in the force for 12 years, the past six of which have been in the GNDU where he was involved in several successful undercover operations to smash drug gangs around the country.
By Paul Williams