Garda whistleblower tells Disclosures Tribunal he felt 'trapped' in 'most stressful job in the station'

Garda whistleblower tells Disclosures Tribunal he felt 'trapped' in 'most stressful job in the station'
Garda Nicholas Keogh.

A Garda has told the Disclosures Tribunal that he believes he was left “trapped” in “the most stressful job in the station” because he had become a whistleblower.

The tribunal is hearing from Garda Nicholas Keogh who alleges that a senior member of the Athlone drugs unit, identified to the tribunal as Garda A, was in an improper relationship with a heroin dealer, identified as Ms B.

The tribunal, chaired by Judge Sean Ryan, is investigating how Gda Keogh was treated after he made his protected disclosure in 2014.

On October 22, 2015, Gda Keogh was detailed for indoor duty at Athlone Garda Station by Supt Patrick Murray.

"I was reduced to indoor duties and was confined to desk-bound duties in the public office carrying out the most stressful job in the station in circumstances where it was known to management that I was suffering from work-related stress," said Gda Keogh in his statement, adding that the move was to be reviewed but that Supt Murray "never did".

"I was put there because Garda A was now suspended," Gda Keogh told Judge Ryan.

"Every Garda wants out of the public office and I'm under constant work-related stress all throughout this.

"I thought that with Garda A suspended that they would back off but then Garda A's friend is put into my unit. I know my career is essentially over once I'm assigned as the permanent PO [Public Office]."

The tribunal was shown a report of a meeting between Supt Murray and Gda Keogh, written by Supt Murray.

The superintendent notes that Gda Keogh's "hands were shaking" that he could "barely sign" a form Supt Murray gave him and that Gda Keogh's condition had "deteriorated".

Supt Murray has stated that "as a result of what I saw I explained to him that I would have to assign him to indoor duty" and that he explained why to Sgt Keogh. Supt Murray stated that Gda Keogh "seemed to agree with the course of action".

Gda Keogh denies there was any agreement.

Gda Keogh told Judge Ryan: "Why put the guy with the shakiest hands in the station into the public office when all you do is sign forms and put this person in full public view? Why would you do that? I thought they would be off my back but they don't do that.

"It's a case of 'We are not going to allow this whistleblower to win. We are in charge and we are going to show who's in charge. We are putting the whistleblower in the public office on public show'. That's my belief.

"Once they put me there they had me trapped because I know I'm going to get nailed on something, it's inevitable. I had nothing, ever, like this prior to making my protected disclosure."

Gda Keogh also said that he believes the reason he was refused leave to meet the the Garda Ombudsman in August 2015 was because of his protected disclosure the previous year.

Gda Keogh said that he was asked for "comprehensive reasons" for requesting the cancellation of a day off taken on August 31. He said he met officials from GSOC, the garda ombudsman that day.

He subsequently wrote to the sergeant in charge in Athlone asking to have the leave retrospectively cancelled, stating that he had met GSOC in Portlaoise that day.

The application was approved by a Sergeant Monaghan but was refused by Superintendent Patrick Murray and a letter was sent to Gda Keogh asking for a "comprehensive report as to the reasons".

Gda Keogh, in a statement, said: "Supt Murray was aware of the confidentiality of GSOC communications with members and countermanded this approval citing 'absence of proper explanation'... in circumstances where I could not provide any more specific explanations, given the confidential nature of GSOC disclosures."

Supt Murray, in his statement, said that he viewed the application as "vague in nature" and that he was "not aware of any further explanation being provided that allowed the matter to be revisited".

"The process is supposed to be confidential," Gda Keogh told chairman Judge Sean Ryan, adding that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan had publicly stated that whistleblowers were to be "protected".

"It was common knowledge that I had made a protected disclosure," said Gda Keogh.

Diarmaid McGuinness SC, for the tribunal, said that, the day before, on 30 August, 2015, Supt Murray states that he had no knowledge of the GSOC appointment.

"It wasn't a major, operational thing. It was one day's annual leave," said Gda Keogh.

Mr McGuinness asked Gda Keogh if he felt he was being "targeted" for making the original protected disclosure.

"Yes," said Gda Keogh. "The sergeant [approving the day off as cancelled] proves it."

Judge Ryan asked if Gda Keogh felt "victimised" and was told "Yes. It didn't feel like it was proper."

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