Astonishing Dáil allegations about Kerry gardaí

Simon Brouder

Independent TD Mick Wallace has availed of Dáil privilege to make a number of extraordinary claims about the enforcement of liquor licensing laws in the Killarney area.

The Wexford based TD made the remarkable comments during last Wednesday's (February 21) Dáil debate on proposals to raise the age limit for Garda Commissioners from 55 to 60.

The Wexford TD - who has raised issues about alleged Garda malpractice on numerous occasions in the past - told the Dáil that in late 2017 he and Dublin Independent TD Clare Daly had met a "garda whistleblower" who had been "chewed up and spat out by the garda system" after he made claims about "blatant non-enforcement of liquor licensing laws" in the Killarney area.

The following is what Deputy Wallace told the Dáil.

"In what is becoming a familiar story with whistleblowers in this country, the garda in question spotted a problem in how policing was done at a station where he served. He brought the issue to his superiors' attention in the belief that they might address the problem and perhaps even thank him," said Deputy Wallace.

"In a small way, he managed some of that but what he did not expect was he would have to face a majority of superiors and colleagues who did not like what he was doing," Deputy Wallace said.

"His pursuit of the issue ended up with him being reprimanded by his superiors and alienated from his colleagues. Eventually, after six years of not being supported, he was forced to take stress-related sick leave in December 2016," Deputy Wallace claimed.

"Things got worse a little over a year later. Stressed, in despair and needing help, the garda found himself in a bad place and ended up unresponsive on the back seat of a bus. Two gardaí arrived to remove him but removing him was not enough so they gave him a good clipping."

"When they realised the fellow they were clipping was also a garda, the two gardaí scuttled off and left him behind. Not alone had he been chewed up and spat out by the Garda system but when he was at his lowest and really needed support - as might any of us at times - he got a punch on the way down," said Deputy Wallace.

"The whistleblower's crime and how it had come to this was as simple as discovering blatant non-enforcement of liquor licensing laws. He found there were favoured publicans who were allowed to run pubs with immunity and without proper licensing in the Killarney area. When the whistleblower attempted to enforce the law and change things so all publicans would be treated equally, he was discouraged by his colleagues, alienated and ridiculed," he said.

"In May 2016, the whistleblower encountered an after-hours street brawl during which the premises continued to serve patrons. After dealing with the brawl, the garda confronted the publican. About a week later he was reprimanded by an inspector for harassing this serial offending publican. The Garda whistleblower was encouraged to come to an arrangement with the publican or the inspector said he would send a complaint up the line and the whistleblower would not come out well of an investigation. This same Inspector threatened to use CCTV footage, supplied by the publican, to destroy this garda unless he apologised and came to an arrangement with the law-breaking publican," Deputy Wallace said.

Deputy Wallace said that the Whistleblower had prepared 16 files for prosecutions under the liquor licensing laws. One was successful but Deputy Wallace said that "in many cases the summonses were not issued, not lodged or withdrawn."

"I do not believe for a second that Killarney is the only place that has a problem with the licensing laws but County Kerry does seem to be a basket case when it comes to prosecuting cases in the District Courts," Deputy Wallace told the Dáil.

"In 2016 in Listowel there were 43 prosecutions in the District Court of which two resulted in convictions; in Tralee there were 14 prosecutions and one conviction; in Killorglin, 18 prosecutions and one conviction; in Caherciveen, 27 prosecutions and one conviction; and in Dingle, Kenmare and Killarney there were seven, 19 and 26 prosecutions, respectively, and zero convictions in each case. The conviction rate for the whole of County Kerry in 2016 was three per cent," Deputy Wallace said.

"Across the country there are even more bizarre anomalies that require further scrutiny. From 2012 to 2016 the total number of prosecutions in Wicklow and Arklow towns was two, neither of which resulted in a prosecution."

"Either publicans are so compliant in these areas that the gardaí there can spend their time looking after the Christmas trees or the gardaí have just ignored that licensing laws need to be enforced. Dundalk, with a 30 per cent conviction rate from 2010 to 2016, illustrates the lack of consistency," Deputy Wallace said.

When contacted by The Kerryman Garda Headquarters declined to comment on Deputy Wallace's allegations.

"An Garda Siochana is prohibited from commenting on any individual protected disclosures that may or may not have been made in relation to individuals in An Garda Siochana or the organisation as a whole," said a statement issued in response by the Garda Press Office at Garda headquarters in Phoenix Park.

A local Garda spokesperson in Kerry told The Kerryman that liquor licensing laws are strictly and fairly enforced in the Killarney area.

"There are hundreds of licensed premises in the Killarney area when one takes into account hotels, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, supermarkets and garages. The gardaí continually liaise with the Revenue Commissioners to ensure these premises are fully licensed and licenses are up to date," said the spokesperson.

"The licensing laws are strictly enforced in a fair and responsible manner and prosecutions are taken when necessary. In fact there were a number of licensing prosecutions at last week's sitting of Killarney District Court," the spokesperson said.