Wednesday 18 October 2017

Garda whistleblower 'targeted over tie with killer's sister'

Pearse Doherty, the Sinn Fein TD from Donegal, named Keith Harrison as a new Garda whistle-blower last week
Pearse Doherty, the Sinn Fein TD from Donegal, named Keith Harrison as a new Garda whistle-blower last week
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

A NEW Garda whistleblower, named by a Sinn Fein TD in the Dail, last week claimed he was victimised because of his relationship with the sister of a convicted criminal who killed a garda in a car crash in Co Donegal.

Keith Harrison claimed his colleagues refused to work with him because of his relationship with the sister of the man who was later convicted of the manslaughter of Garda Gary McLoughlin.

Garda McLoughlin, 24, was killed in 2009 after his patrol car was rammed by Martin McDermott following a high speed chase.

He died later of his injuries.

Martin McDermott, who had 91 previous convictions, was found guilty of Gary McLaughlin's manslaughter, reckless endangerment, dangerous driving causing death, and other charges including drink driving.

He was sentenced to eight years with the final year suspended.

In an affidavit seen by the Sunday Independent, Mr Harrison referred to the death of Garda McLoughlin as an "accident". He described how he was transferred from Athlone to Buncrana in Donegal, where he enjoyed his time and "got on well with everybody".

"However in May 2011, management became aware that the brother of my partner was involved in an accident that resulted in the death of a garda who had been stationed in Buncrana," he said.

He said that he was informed "that my colleagues knew about my relationship and with whom my partner was connected and that some did not wish to work with me".

"I had done nothing wrong. I was being punished for my relationship, at no stage in my career has my personal life ever affected me in carrying out my duties to the highest standard," he claimed.

Pearse Doherty, the Sinn Fein TD from Donegal, named Keith Harrison as a new Garda whistle blower last week. He outlined his allegations under Dail privilege.

He said: "Garda Keith Harrison claims that as a result of arresting a member of the drugs unit in Athlone for drunk driving, that Garda management maliciously set out targeting him – while the arrested garda was afforded protection by Garda management.

"He claims that a managerial review of his high work returns and practices was instigated and persons who had past interactions with him in the execution of his duties were invited by the Garda to make complaints against him.

He claims that during this period – from September 2009 until March 2011 – he was office-bound while the garda he arrested, who had been found with a high concentration of alcohol, was still driving official vehicles and carrying an official firearm."

After this period, Garda Harrison was transferred to Buncrana.

His allegations were outlined in an affidavit which he gave to Pearse Doherty last week. Mr Doherty quoted from his affidavit in Dail on Thursday: "I was once a well-respected, ambitious and unblemished member of An Garda Siochana.

"Through systematic and relentless bullying and intimidation and unmerited scrutiny, I have, in my view, been totally undermined and destroyed. My good name and that of my family has also been tarnished and I now feel I have no option but to take this action. I feel I could not address this prior to now as who was I to turn and have faith in them to do the right thing? Who would believe me over Garda management? Would I make an unbearable situation worse for myself, by turning on the wolves that preyed on me?

"Never in my life have I felt so alone, tortured and disappointed. I have huge concerns about my future in An Garda Siochana and how much more is going to be thrown my way."

Garda Harrison was fined €300 last year for not having insurance or road tax on his car which was parked at Donegal garda station. The case was heard not in Donegal but in Leitrim, in May last year.

The court heard that Garda Harrison's profession was not disclosed at the hearing.

His solicitor, Frank Dorrian, told the court his client believed he was covered while his insurance application was being completed. Judge Kevin Kilraine noted that it "wasn't a just a blatant case of driving without insurance".

He imposed a fine of €300.

Sunday Independent

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