Disclosures Tribunal: Witness says gardaí asked if she was afraid to make statement against whistleblower

The Disclosures Tribunal is in its fifth week of hearing evidence into the treatment of 'whistleblower' Garda Nicholas Keogh, after he made a protected disclosure in 2014.

Disclosures Tribunal: Witness says gardaí asked if she was afraid to make statement against whistleblower

A civilian witness has said that gardaí came to her after she made allegations about garda collusion and asked her if she was afraid to make a statement against a garda whistleblower.

The Disclosures Tribunal is in its fifth week of hearing evidence into the treatment of 'whistleblower' Garda Nicholas Keogh, after he made a protected disclosure in 2014.

Gda Keogh 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 if Gda Keogh was targeted, harassed, undermined, or bullied after he made his protected disclosure on May 8, 2014.

Judge Ryan was told that Olivia O'Neill lived on the same Athlone estate as Ms B, whose families were both involved in an ongoing feud when Ms O'Neill called to Athlone Garda Station on 28 May 2018.

Ms O'Neill wanted to make a statement regarding an alleged assault on her daughter by Ms B.

Gda Keogh was on duty at a busy public desk on the night and could not take her statement but it was arranged that Gda Stephanie Treacy would.

Gda Keogh has stated that Ms O'Neill “then proceeded to allege – spontaneously and of her own motion and volition – that there was police collusion in Athlone in the drugs trade and that Ms B was 'doing favours for guards'.”

Gda Keogh has stated he told Ms O'Neill in the public office to “name names and name guards” but no more.

Gda Treacy reported that Ms O'Neill told her that Gda Keogh had advised Ms O'Neill of the information to include in her statement, including the allegation concerning gardaí and Ms B. Both Gda Keogh and Ms O'Neill have denied this.

Ms O'Neill told Sinead McGrath BL, for the tribunal, that “I was told to be careful... I was told that there was a lot of ears on Ms B's side [in Athlone Garda Station].”

Ms O'Neill told Judge Ryan that she did not hear the collusion allegation from Gda Keogh but that it was “heard all over the place”.

“I was told, from our own estate, it was a waste of time going down about Ms B and it was withdrawn days later anyway,” said Ms O'Neill.

She said that two days after the visit to the station two gardaí, Gda Tom Higgins and Detective Sergeant Eamon Curley, called to her estate looking for her.

Ms O'Neill said: “It was a little black car, not a squad car and not a detective car, and they asked me if I wanted to get in. I said 'no'. I asked if I was under arrest and they said 'no'.

“They asked about Gda Keogh. Tom Higgins asked about Gda Keogh and if I was afraid to give a statement about Gda Keogh.

“They were not interested in the dispute – they just don't care, they're never on our side. They just wanted to know about Gda Keogh. I asked them if they wanted to take my statement on the assault but all they wanted to know was about making a statement about Gda Keogh.”

Ms O'Neill repeated that she did not individually know Gda Keogh before visiting the station and that he did not tell her to include Ms B in her complaint but that “you would know guards' faces from being on our estate” and through her visits to the station during the feud.

The feud quietened down in September 2014 after statements of complaints against Ms B were withdrawn and the families “shook hands”. Ms O'Neill said she had no statement to make against Gda Keogh, did not make one and that she found it “very odd, that a guard would be coming around about another guard”.

Ms O'Neill told Judge Ryan that, while she might have generally talked a lot and could not remember everything, she was “not a liar”.

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