Top garda investigator appointed to lead cocaine cover-up probe
ONE of the country's leading criminal investigators has been appointed to probe allegations that members of the force protected broadcaster Gerry Ryan and other public figures from investigation over drug use.
Garda top brass have appointed Detective Superintendent John McMahon of the Garda National Bureau of Criminal Investigation to probe the claims.
The highly experienced investigator has been involved in heading up several sensitive inquiries, including one into the leaking of a confidential government report to a journalist.
The development came as the Garda Ombudsman Commission said it would also consider investigating the allegations, which surfaced in the 'Sunday Independent' newspaper.
Det Supt McMahon is to seek interviews with the newspaper's editor Aengus Fanning and one of its reporters.
Mr Fanning has welcomed the garda investigation and said the newspaper will co-operate fully with it.
Officers said last night that the aim of launching the inquiry was to "get to the bottom" of the claims and establish if they were founded on fact.
The investigation team have powers available to them to check the phone records of the journalists involved but it is not yet clear whether these will be used.
"This article is based on anonymous sources and the first priority must be to find out how reliable and knowledgeable the sources are," one officer added.
Among the claims being investigated is that gardai failed to act against a known drug dealer reputed to supply cocaine to well-known figures.
It was also alleged that senior figures in the gardai and the Department of Justice believed a small number of corrupt gardai were protecting public figures with drug habits.
Meanwhile, the Garda Ombudsman Commission said it would consider the allegations carefully.
The watchdog last night stopped short of launching a formal inquiry, but said it was keeping "a watching brief" on the matter.
A spokesman said it may yet launch an inquiry if further information comes to light.
The commission has powers to investigate matters in the public interest even if it does not receive a formal complaint.
Separately, Gareth O'Callaghan, a former colleague of Mr Ryan, presented himself at Blanchardstown garda station yesterday to give a statement about his knowledge of the late 2fm DJ's drug taking.
Mr O'Callaghan has said he knows the identity of a drug dealer who supplied Mr Ryan with cocaine.
He did not return calls seeking comment last night.
Mr O'Callaghan had been vocal on the issue since an inquest earlier this month revealed Mr Ryan's cocaine use was a likely factor in triggering the cardiac arrhythmia that led to his death.
Meanwhile, RTE admitted yesterday it had backed off in its coverage of cocaine-related issues after the inquest.
RTE's head of corporate communications, Kevin Dawson, said the national broadcaster had "held back" in its coverage of the controversy.
Mr Dawson said that after reflecting on its approach, "we felt that there had been too little coverage".
Speaking on RTE Radio One, he said senior management were never made aware of any concerns that Mr Ryan had been taking drugs.
"There isn't any record of any report being made to RTE or any alert being filed or any suspicion being recorded such that management should have acted on," he said.
Mr Dawson added: "RTE did not have any reason to believe that Gerry Ryan was using drugs. There was absolute shock on the part of management, as there appears to have been on the part of his family and on the part of his partner."
He said an "anecdotal picture" of Mr Ryan's drug use had been built up since the inquest "which may or may not be reliable".
Mr Dawson said some staff who worked closely with Mr Ryan had said they had suspicions "many years ago" that he may have been using cocaine.
"But in recent years, and for many years, the feeling amongst those who were close to him was that he was not," said Mr Dawson.