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Wednesday 28 September 2016

Grieving officers take comfort from Commissioner's visit

Greg Harkin

Published 06/06/2015 | 02:30

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan
Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan met the widow of Sgt Mick Galvin and welcomed a judicial review into the death of the garda during a meeting with bereaved colleagues.

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Relations between the service and the Garda Ombudsman are at an all-time low, and many gardaí say they are "relieved" GSOC is no longer involved in the investigation into their colleague's death.

The national executive of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (ASGI) moved its monthly meeting to Ballyshannon yesterday as a mark of respect to Sgt Galvin.

The 45-year-old father of three took his own life nine days ago at the station in the town where he was duty sergeant.

The Commissioner travelled to Manorhamilton in Co Leitrim, to meet with his widow, Collette Galvin, and other relatives who had demanded a judicial inquiry into her husband's death.

A High Court or Supreme Court judge will lead the investigation, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald confirmed.

Ms O'Sullivan told a packed meeting of Donegal gardaí that she welcomed what she called "a completely transparent" investigation into Sgt Galvin's death.

She told gardaí she was there to support them, saying she knew what they were going through.

"We are the garda family and we stick together as the garda family," she said.

Sergeant Paul Wallace, a rep for the AGSI and a friend of Sgt Galvin, said the visit by the Commissioner had been important.

"The guards here in this station and this division are grieving, but more than that there is a family grieving and that's what our focus has been all along this past week," he said.

"It has been a very tough week for Collette and the family and a very tough week for all of us, but now there is a judicial investigation, we can at least draw breath and let that take its course.

"In the fullness of time, there has to be some legacy to Mick - who was just a man doing his job and who didn't do anything wrong. Hopefully, this never happens again and safeguards are brought in so that it doesn't."

He said some public commentary this past week had been hurtful for the family and garda colleagues.

"There is a family grieving with small children, an extended family and communities in three counties and that should never ever be forgotten, no matter what happens next. Mick was a dad and he was Collette's husband," added Sgt Wallace.

Gardaí affected by the death have been offered counselling by experts, with a special session due to take place next Tuesday.

The GRA and ASGI have urged gardaí to use the services being provided.

In the reception of Ballyshannon Garda Station, two lit candles sit beside a picture of Mick Galvin.

Hundreds of people have signed a book of condolences; the Commissioner the latest to add her name to the tributes to the dead officer.

But the fall-out from this crisis is never far away.

Sgt Galvin's solicitor Michael Hegarty said he had taken on the case in April but insisted that GSOC should never have launched a criminal investigation.

This had caused the Sligo native and former intercounty footballer and hurler a great deal of distress.

He also criticised the tone of the statement from GSOC issued on Thursday evening after a week of refusing to accede to an independent inquiry.

"We're dealing with human beings here," he said.

"This has had a devastating effect on a family and colleagues."

Irish Independent

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