Suspended Limerick Garda: 'Our lives are ripped apart...our mental health is in tatters'

Suspended Limerick Garda: 'Our lives are ripped apart...our mental health is in tatters'

Three of the gardaí have had books of evidence served on them but the other five are still waiting for a decision on their fate. Picture:  Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

One of eight Limerick gardaí on suspension from duty for more than a year says he and his colleagues are in a “state of distress” after having “our identities ripped from us”.

The eight are currently on suspension as a probe is carried out by the National Bureau of Crime Investigation (NCBI) into the squaring of traffic offences in the Limerick division. 

Three have had books of evidence served on them but the other five are still waiting for a decision on their fate.

None of the eight has spoken out before now. The man who has chosen to tell his story is doing so because he feels an injustice is being done to him, hmeis colleagues, and their families, which he says is very hard to take.

He has been suspended since November 7 last year and has never been charged as part of the investigation.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner on condition of anonymity, the man said: “Me and my colleagues are in a state of distress, our identities ripped from us, our rights ignored, reputations ruined, family lives left in tatters.”

He added: “We are honest decent members of An Garda Siochana. We are not looking for sympathy.”

We just want to get back to protecting the communities we serve.

He says the suspension followed warrants being issued allowing the NBCI to seize notebooks belonging to him and other members who have been suspended.

Prior to the suspension, they all tried to continue as normal, while knowing there was an investigation underway in the background into the squaring of traffic offences in the Limerick division.

He recalled: “We all tried to move on and put it to the back of our minds, still knowing that we had done nothing wrong and I guess stupidly that you can’t get into trouble for doing the right thing.”

He described November 7 last year as the day he received a call he would never forget.

He said: “Over a year into the investigation, for some reason which still hasn’t been explained to us, they decided to suspend us.”

Gardaí's power of discretion

He elaborated: “Suspended for using the power of discretion that we had been taught to use from the first day entering the Garda college.

"I remember one particular garda instructor telling us, ‘this is the most important power you have’. Yet there is no guide to using the power (of discretion).”

He continued: “We used this power on the side of the road or in packed court rooms, in front of judges, superintendents, inspectors, barristers, solicitors, colleagues, journalists, and members of the public." 

No one ever pulled us aside or even questioned what we were doing. 

"Since cars were on the road and guards stopped them, this power has been used. 

"Why now retrospectively is this being investigated, why is it still going on up and down the country but we find ourselves suspended and facing further questions at some point?”

He remembers the drive to the station in which he served to hand over his garda badge vividly, describing it as the “worst drive to the station that I ever experienced”.

Speaking to the 'Irish Examiner' on condition of anonymity, the man said that as a young garda, he was warned by older colleagues that “some day the job will feck you over”.
Speaking to the 'Irish Examiner' on condition of anonymity, the man said that as a young garda, he was warned by older colleagues that “some day the job will feck you over”.

One of the most difficult parts for him in those early days of his suspension was his family and close friends reading about it in the media.

He recalled: “The ‘story’ of our suspensions was leaked to the national media, with family members and close friends having to read about us and the narrative that whoever leaked the story chose to put on it.”

He says he and the four other colleagues who have not been served with books of evidence have not been questioned by the NBCI since the suspension on November 7, 2020.

Our lives are ripped apart, families put through hell.

He added: “Our mental health has been in tatters, many of us are now on medication to help get us through each day.

“We have not been afforded the chance to defend ourselves or even question our suspensions. 

"Most days I dread going to bed, another sleepless night questioning everything and unable to make sense of any of it.”

He also believes that thousands of cases have been affected by the suspensions, adding that there would also have been thousands of fixed charge notices issued for traffic offences such as speeding, non-wearing of seat belts, and flouting mobile phone laws.

Investigation is ongoing

More than 100 other people across different garda ranks have been interviewed as part of the investigation. More will be questioned in the coming weeks.

He pondered: “Yet we are still the only ones suspended. They continue to work in their roles in An Garda Síochána, yet we aren’t allowed to step foot in a garda station.”

Before his suspension, he loved his job and said he defended it when needed.

He said: “I have been a member of An Garda Síochána for a long time now, you could count on one hand how many times I felt that I didn’t want to go to work.”

He also said: “Working in the traffic corps was never a popular choice both with colleagues and the general public — a difficult job where nearly every interaction was a negative one, where you were telling someone they did wrong." 

Although difficult and sometimes wearing, my colleagues and I felt it was a very important job as we were saving lives, making the roads a safer place for the community.

He says that as a young garda, he was warned by older colleagues that “some day the job will feck you over”.

He reflected: “I smiled to myself, thinking sure how could that happen, that I do my job correctly and would never ever put the job I love in jeopardy.”

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