RED-faced Garda bosses who wanted to discipline the detective who played the role of an undercover garda in TV drama Love/Hate are being forced into an embarrassing climbdown, the Sunday Independent has learnt.
Senior management wanted to impose career-threatening disciplinary action on Detective Garda Kieran O'Reilly despite the fact he informed his seniors before appearing on the TV show and received permission to do so.
However, sources have revealed that senior management have been reduced to asking the Garda legal affairs section to introduce a new regulation restricting gardai from appearing in dramas depicting any policing-related role.
There is no regulation to prevent gardai from appearing in fictional dramas, and introducing such a regulation now is seen among many gardai as a petty move and a humiliating climbdown.
Det Garda O'Reilly, a highly respected member of the force, embarked on the TV role after receiving permission from his superiors and taking unpaid leave to play the part of undercover garda Ciaran Madden.
Senior garda management were apparently unaware that Det Garda O'Reilly was appearing in the show until it was aired. Sources say that when it became known in Garda HQ, senior management became "obsessed".
A superintendent was directed to investigate whether disciplinary regulations had been breached.
It is now understood that this investigation concluded that Det Garda O'Reilly was entitled to appear in the crime drama and complied fully with regulations. The only road open to senior management now is a change in regulations, and the legal section has been directed to look into this.
In real life, Det Garda O'Reilly carried out dangerous undercover work into drugs gangs for six years for the National Drugs Unit, but went back to desk work last year. He appeared in all six episodes of the last series and was praised for his performances.
Two days before the final episode was broadcast he was informed that disciplinary action against him was being considered.
The internal inquiry into his acting role provoked astonishment among colleagues who know of Det Garda O'Reilly's work and the risks he has taken in real life. The fact that an officer of superintendent rank was taken from other duties to investigate the TV appearance was widely derided.
"They're obsessed with it up there [Garda headquarters, in the Phoenix Park]. You'd think they might have other things to worry about," one source said.
Another said he hoped that in the next series the Love/ Hate team would "show how stupid it is in the guards . . . they've lost the plot".
The serving of disciplinary papers on Det Garda O'Reilly further reinforced the view that there is now a gulf between operational gardai and senior management.
Sources this weekend said that control of the force had fallen into the hands of career-obsessed "bean-counters", many of whom had little actual policing experience.
They pointed to a number of senior garda managers who had gone into nine-to-five desk jobs early in their careers and had risen to senior positions without taking part in any serious crime investigations.
Sources claim some senior officers have never made any arrests. Other sources pointed to senior gardai who, they claim, have had almost no experience in criminal court proceedings. In contrast, they point to other gardai whose lives have been threatened. In one Dublin division there have been threats to the lives of detectives from a professional gangland assassin. A bounty of €30,000 was offered for the murder of any of them.
- Jim Cusack