A whistleblower garda who became dependent on alcohol due to work-related stress had his condition exacerbated by having his pay incorrectly cut, a tribunal has heard.
The Disclosures Tribunal is in its tenth week of hearing evidence into the treatment of whistleblower Garda Nicholas Keogh, who made a protected disclosure in 2014.
Gda Keogh alleged 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 8 May, 2014.
The tribunal heard from HR Chief Superintendent Tony McLoughlin, who was made protected disclosures manager in 2016, of his interactions with Gda Keogh over the misrecording of his sickness and therefore the cutting of his pay.
Chief Supt McLoughlin said that his role was to act as a recipient for confidential reporters and to supply updates to them and to Garda management but he was also involved in the health and welfare of Gda Keogh.
In late 2015, Gda Keogh's pay was cut to a 'temporarily reduced remuneration' level after he had been out sick for 183 days in a four-year period. His absences were recorded on the Garda system incorrectly as 'flu/viral' which led to the pay-cut, even though his GP had been submitting sick certs for work-related stress.
Chief Supt McLoughlin said he received a call from Gda Keogh in June 2016, during which the garda “admitted he had been drinking”.
“It was obvious, he was incoherent - and I mean no disrespect to Gda Keogh - he admitted it and said he was going to drink more in the afternoon. He was annoyed, he said he was sick with stress,” said Chief Supt McLoughlin, who met Gda Keogh that month in Tullamore.
“At the meeting, Gda Keogh said he had stopped drinking and was ok with a discussion.
He said he had become dependent on alcohol because of work-related stress and I asked him for reasons for the stress.
Chief Supt McLoughlin said that Gda Keogh said that he had listed issues with management, how the investigation into Garda A was being handled, that he was annoyed about the cut in pay, of how management viewed him and that he felt singled out because of his allegations.
A note by Chief Supt McLoughlin read that Gda Keogh “believes that [Garda Commissioner] Noirín O'Sullivan failed to protect him”.
Gda Keogh also gave Chief Supt McLoughlin a document titled 'harassment index' that outlined his issues in writing.
Chief Supt McLoughlin then emailed Garda HR and management, saying Gda Keogh should not be “on reduced pay until it is proven that there wasn't a causal link between the reason for his absence and work-related stress.
We tend to reduce pay first while we wait on a decision and this increases the stress and exacerbates the problem. There is a change of mind-set required here.
The chief superintendent signed off: “Urgent. Mark my words, it will at some stage appear in the media or in the Dáil.”
Chief Supt McLoughlin told Judge Ryan: “We had cut his pay while the organisation was saying it supported people coming forward. I felt there was a dichotomy there.”
In July 2016, Gda Keogh was accepted into a 22-day residential care facility for his alcohol dependency. In October, when his absences were being recorded as work-related stress, which came under a category similar to 'work-related injury', his pay was restored and back-dated.
“The Garda Commissioner and our own policy says we will support any complainant under the Protected Disclosures Act. Therefore, he had a right to have his pay restored and I stand over that today,” said Chief Supt McLoughlin.