GSOC arrives in Kerry to probe liquor licensing

The investigation is on foot of a protected disclosure by a Garda who served in the town for a six-year period, but who has been on sick leave in recent years. It got underway late last year.

GSOC arrives in Kerry to probe liquor licensing

Garda Ombudsman Commission investigators are carrying out an investigation into allegations of abuse of liquor licensing laws in the town.

The investigation is on foot of a protected disclosure by a Garda who served in the town for a six-year period, but who has been on sick leave in recent years. It got underway late last year.

The allegations by the garda include there was blatant disregard for closing hours by a small number of premises; that flaws were inserted in records when it came to licensing breaches by some premises; and that prosecutions were not pursued properly.

Almost a quarter of premises serving drink did not have a liquour licence in 2012, the garda has claimed.

He also said there was widespread ignoring of the obligation to get late night exemption orders by a handful of premises.

The garda raised the contention that hundreds of thousands of euro is being lost to Revenue on an annual basis as a result.

He also questioned whether charges of almost €500 were being levied on brides and grooms for exemptions for weddings that may never have been sought.

The garda compared numbers of exemption orders applied for in Killarney with other towns over the period 2010 to 2016.

GSOC told the garda complainant in June that it had made a decision to “designate the matter for investigation in the public interest,” which the letter to him explained meant “a criminal investigation".

Frustrated by what he perceived as a lack of progress, the garda blogged his claims over the Christmas period. The blog has since stopped.

He claims gardaí were offered gifts and he alleged he was bullied and “put through a living hell” because he tried to tackle the abuse.

Gardaí were being called to situations where they found hundreds of people in certain premises at 3am or 4am and no prosecutions followed, he claimed.

He also alleges the Garda patrol car would be used to ferry drunken patrons home.

GSOC officers arrived in Kerry on Monday to examine documentation and recording systems and conduct interviews as part of their inquiry, it is understood.

Around 21 members of the gardaí, some of whom are no longer based in the Kerry Division are to be investigated by GSOC as part of the current inquiry. No allegations of wrongdoing has been proven against any of the members under investigation.

The Garda Press Office was asked about the arrival by GSOC to Killarney on Wednesday but referred the matter to GSOC. In turn, GSOC said it would not comment.

In November 2016, more than 50 members of An Garda Síochána in Killarney were interviewed in a hotel in the town as part of an internal investigation into alleged corruption in an enquiry which has come to be known as “vouchergate”.

A garda had complained that the operator of a licensed premises in Killarney was offering €50 vouchers to gardaí. Nothing untoward was uncovered in the inquiry.

During a visit to Kerry in January, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris moved to reassure the public that he had confidence in the commitment and quality of Kerry gardaí. He also said nothing less than the enforcement of all law, including licensing law, was acceptable.

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