THE alleged mishandling of an unofficial garda informant in Limerick is under investigation amid claims that the man was allowed to sell drugs while supplying gardai with information about the city's feuding drugs gangs.
No comment was available from the Garda yesterday but it is understood that an internal inquiry is under way into the handling of the informant. Strict guidelines about handling informants were introduced in the aftermath of the Morris Inquiry into corruption in garda practices in Donegal.
Regulations were introduced to ensure that agent handling was to be centralised and individual gardai were not allowed to have personal relations with informants.
Sources claim that while the Limerick informant supplied valuable information to gardai, he was still involved in drug dealing. Under the 2004 Morris Tribunal guidelines, all informants must be passed into the centralised "CHIS" (Covert Human Resources Intelligence Sources).
The Limerick case follows severe criticism of garda tactics in handling the Dublin informant and drug trafficker Kieran Boylan, who was given immunity over possession of drugs in return for high-level intelligence about other traffickers.
A two-year investigation by the Garda Ombudsman resulted in a file being sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions but no charges were laid against gardai.
Boylan was supplying information to detectives in the National Bureau of Crime Investigation unbeknown to the Garda National Drugs Unit who arrested him in October 2005 over possession of a drugs shipment valued at €1.7m. It is claimed a similar situation occurred in Limerick about two years ago at the time the informant was supplying gardai with information. He was arrested by gardai from a separate station in the city, but was allegedly released. Sources say he was allowed to continue in the drugs trade in return for passing information.
The incident is said to have caused internal rows among gardai in the city with allegations and counter-allegations of corruption. One source said last week that there was a "poisonous" atmosphere among some gardai over the episode.
Gardai in Limerick have had major successes in combating the city's drugs and crime gangs in recent years. Gardai have succeeded in imprisoning most of the city's major figures who were behind the murderous feuds over the past decade. The city has seen a very significant decline in serious gang violence and has experienced no gun deaths in almost two years. A protest about alleged corruption in the gardai in Limerick was held on Friday led by the Independent TDs, Luke Flanagan, Mick Wallace, Joan Collins and Clare Daly outside Henry Street Garda Station, but this did not concern the allegations at the centre of the internal investigation into the informant handling.
The TDs said they had received a variety of complaints alleging that gardai had protected criminals in the city, taken in personal disputes and had failed to properly prosecute criminals who may be acting as informants.
A number of people have alleged that gardai are protecting certain criminals by unduly prolonging court proceedings and allowing intimidation of witnesses. The Garda Press Office would not respond to a query about the allegations last week.