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Superintendent Dan reflects on eventful career

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Tralee Superintendent Dan Keane who is retiring from the force in September after almost 40 years as a garda. Photo by Domnick Walsh

Tralee Superintendent Dan Keane who is retiring from the force in September after almost 40 years as a garda. Photo by Domnick Walsh

On security detail on the fairways of Killarney, with Nick Faldo, during the Irish Open

On security detail on the fairways of Killarney, with Nick Faldo, during the Irish Open

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Tralee Superintendent Dan Keane who is retiring from the force in September after almost 40 years as a garda. Photo by Domnick Walsh

Harrowing murders, significant high-pressure security details and aiding investigations into child pornography are just a few examples of what one of Kerry's top cops has had to face in his 37-year career with An Garda Síochána.

After an illustrious career spanning much of the country and the county, current Tralee Superintendent Dan Keane is to retire and, with it, the force loses his many years' experience at the coal-face of Kerry's fight against crime.

In his long career, Dan has worked his way through the ranks of An Garda Síochána, becoming a Superintendent in 2012, and for the past eight years he has been one of three Superintendents in Kerry.

Originally from Bantry in west Cork, Dan joined An Garda Síochána in 1983 and has served in various locations across the country and in Kerry - namely its three largest towns: Killarney, Listowel in Tralee.

Dan was promoted to Sergeant at the age of 29 in 1993 and became a Detective Sergeant in 1998. He spent seven years in this role in Killarney.

He became the first ever Detective Inspector of An Garda Siochana in Kerry when he took up the position in 2007, having being promoted to Inspector in 2005.

He once again moved up the ranks in becoming a Superintendent in 2012 - a position he held in Roxboro Road and Henry Street in Limerick; in Listowel and, most recently, in Tralee. In this role, he oversaw security and crime-fighting during Limerick's City of Culture celebrations, which saw a quarter of million people on the streets - the biggest crowds ever recorded in Limerick.

He was also in charge in Limerick during the Special Olympics year, and he carried the torch with his PSNI colleagues.

Back in Kerry, Dan has been key to many security details over the years - one of the most high-pressure roles in the force, given the scope for error.

These details included the visit of Prince Charles and Camilla to Kerry in June 2018, which Dan describes as the 'most pressurised' couple of weeks in his career, but weeks he can rightly be proud of.

"There was huge pressure. We got a month's notice and it was a huge operation with a visit to a number of locations in Kerry, but it was very successful," he says.

In fact, thankfully, all of the security details over the years that he has overseen have been successful, going back as far as 2000 when he was on security detail for the visit of Imperial Highness Crown Princess Sayako from Japan, who stayed at the Aghadoe Heights Hotel; and for the visit by the Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji to Killarney in September 2001.

That visit was one of Killarney and Kerry's biggest security operations, even involving snipers located on rooftops surrounding the hotel

"There was huge pressure around this, it was phenomenal at the time in 2001," recalls Dan.

Closer to home, Dan also oversaw security detail for political Ard Fheiseanna in Killarney for both Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, with particular focus on ensuring that the live party broadcasts went off without a hitch. Such was the level of security that even the transmission masts were protected at the time.

"We had to make sure nothing could happen. The pressure was huge. There were all sorts of threats, including bomb threats...Transmissions area had to protected from damage, and we had to control who got in and out of these broadcasts."

Though VIP security detail was a huge aspect of the job, on-the-ground investigating of crime was the key role, and having overseen 12 murder investigations in the Kingdom, Dan has seen more than most.

Reluctant to bring the more harrowing stories to the fore again, it is with some pride, though, that he recalls the solving of murder incidents and obtaining justice for the families.

"Murders are tough, you have whole families and the community traumatised. Kerry is considered a safe place to live, and it is, but if you have a murder, the entire community is devastated," he says.

One that stands to mind is a double murder in Moyvane, which resulted in the perpetrator being confined to the Central Mental Hospital in Dublin.

"That devastated the entire North Kerry era," he recalls.

Dan believes that An Garda Síochána have come a long way in dealing with victims of crime, and that family liaison officers (FLOs) for families impacted by murder and serious crime are a key factor in this.

Other serious crime investigations also formed part of his illustrious career. Back in the early 2000s, Dan was involved in investigating child porn in Kerry as part of a nationwide operation known as Operation Hyphen.

"In the whole of Kerry, there were about 20 arrests of people that were suspected of purchasing child porn - one or two of those resulted in cases," recalls Dan. However, this marked the beginning of investigations into world-wide sex crimes.

Also on the serious crime investigations front, another key case he recalls is what began as the theft of Rolex watches in Killarney and Galway back in 2003, which resulted in the then-Sergeant Dan Keane getting the first-ever 'European Arrest Warrant' in the High Court before Judge Michael Peart. The Rolex watches had been stolen in July 2003 by an English National.

Some months later, an €84,000 yacht was stolen in Crosshaven in Cork and got into difficulty off the Cornwall Coast and had to be rescued.

The person on board turned out to be a person of interest in the Rolex watch theft and was wanted in the UK for fraud offences, for which he was convicted. Dan and his team applied for a European arrest warrant when these extradition laws came into place, and having been successful, Dan and the now-retired Detective Garda Bill Stack extradited the UK national from Southampton, and he was brought before Tralee District Court, where he received 14 months' jail.

Many will also remember the ATM robbery in Castleisland. Dan was a senior investigating officer on the case, and the team successfully prosecuted two persons involved in the daring heist, when they used a stolen JCB and pulled an ATM from the wall of the bank.

The investigation involved much cross-border co-operation, and it is that kind of community co-operation and engagement that is key to successful policing.

This is the one thing that worries him most about the future of policing and the changes planned by the force. This will see the Kerry Division as an autonomous division, with around 350 members of the force overseen by three superintendents - one of whom will oversee community engagement.

"One Superintendent involved in community engagement and day-to-day policing based out of Tralee; I think that is worrying," he said.

However, the seasoned member of the force believes that the new policing model also has some very good aspects. This is set to be rolled out in 2021 and 2022 having been delayed due to COVID-19, and the appointment of a civilian assistant principal officer to each Garda division to oversee Human Resources and Finance, he believes, is a welcome move.

It wasn't all pressured time during his 37-year career.

Dan has some memorable moments he enjoyed, and one of these was being picked as a young Garda in 1992 to accompany Nick Faldo on his final round of the Irish Open golf tournament, which was being hosted in Killarney Golf & Fishing Club. Nick Faldo won this event three years in a row in Killarney, in 1991, 1992 and 1993.

Under changes in policing, senior management were offered severance packages and Dan, having served 37 years, decided to take the offer and step down from the force. Dan has taken holiday leave from this week so, in effect, he has now stepped aside from his duties and will officially retire on September 1.

His plans are to spend time with his family. Dan has lived in Killarney for the past 32 years, and he is married to Kate and the couple have three children - Daniel (a Garda in Kilkenny); Kevin (in Sydney) and Aidan (a student in the Sem, Killarney). He has a grand-daughter, Holly.

He also hopes that he and his wife can travel, including a visit to their son in Australia, but COVID has put paid to such plans for the moment. In the interim Dan, however, is enjoying his first few days of freedom having got up on Monday to go for a run.

Having spent nine hours or more at his desk on many days, he now has time to run, walk and spend time at home.

The late night phone-calls announcing a serious crime - perhaps a stabbing, rape or a road death - will not be something he or his wife, Kate, will miss.

He will, however, miss the many friendships he has made not only with colleagues in the force, but outside of that in his interaction with various bodies during his time leading investigations, helping police and ensuring the safety of all those living in Kerry.

Dan's crucial role will now be overseen by Acting Superintendent Donal Horgan, who from Monday is stepping into Dan's shoes. A permanent Superintendent will be in place in September.

Kerryman