Tuesday 20 August 2019

Garda bosses clash over approach to whistleblower claims

Gardai in Balbriggan are investigating
Gardai in Balbriggan are investigating

Niall O'Connor

SENIOR Garda bosses have clashed over the handling of allegations of bullying and harassment by a garda whistleblower who took leave of absence after presenting claims of major criminal wrongdoing involving officers in the Midlands.

Independent.ie has learned that the bullying allegations made by Garda Nick Keogh have been the subject of a series of tense meetings in Garda Headquarters in recent days with one member of garda management strongly criticising the force’s treatment of the decorated officer.

Assistant Commissioner Fintan Fanning has hit out the delay in dealing with the bullying allegations by Garda Keogh, who claims his life has been destroyed after coming forward with his claims of criminal wrongdoing.

It’s understood Mr Fanning will secure agreement from Acting Garda Commissioner Donall Ó Cualáin to appoint an assistant commissioner to investigate how Garda Keogh has been treated.

Assistant Commissioner Fanning has held a number of meetings in recent days about the case with John Barrett, the force’s head of Human Resources, and Joe Nugent, the force’s Chief Administrative Officer.

It’s understood Mr Nugent proposed that Garda Keogh’s complaints be the subject of a “scoping exercise”.

Garda Keogh is understood to have strongly criticised this proposal as being completely inadequate in a letter sent to Acting Commissioner Ó Cualáin through his solicitor, John Gerard Cullen, last week.

During tense exchanges in recent days, Mr Fanning pressed strongly for the appointment of an Assistant Garda Commissioner.

The proposal for a scoping exercise is likely to have been intended as a first step.

In an ironic turn of events, it’s emerged Acting Commissioner Ó Cualáin had to excuse himself from the meetings due to a “conflict of interest”.

It’s understood this centres upon the fact that he himself is leading the investigation to the claims of criminal wrongdoing made by Garda Keogh.

These claims centre around alleged garda collusion with a drug dealer who was being investigated for selling heroin in the midlands.

A dossier detailing the allegations have been sent to the Disclosures Tribunal, led by Judge Peter Charleton.

The Garda Watchdog, GSOC, has compiled a report on the force’s handling of the investigation into alleged collusion.

However, the report cannot be released until Acting Commissioner Ó Cualáin completes his own report into Garda Keogh’s claims.

Concern has also been expressed within the force that Acting Commissioner Ó Cualáin may reach his planned retirement date before completing the report - which details extremely serious claims about the alleged actions of a garda detective in the midlands.

Sources close to Garda Headquarters have confirmed that the Acting Commissioner has embarked on a pre-retirement course and is planning to step down next summer.

He has yet to formally notify the Department of Justice of his plans.

As revealed by Independent.ie, the Acting Commissioner is due to be called before the Disclosures Tribunal to answer questions about the complaint from Garda Keogh and the handling of the wider investigation.

‘Independents 4 Change’ TD Daly told the Dáil in September  that despite Garda Keogh making his original complaint about collusion over three and a half years ago, not a single person has been charged.

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