A lengthy public inquiry into serious allegations made by Garda whistleblower Nicky Keogh has ruled that they were not substantiated.
The Disclosures Tribunal has published its latest report after hearings held during 2019 and 2020 into complaints by Garda Keogh that he had been targeted after he made a voluntary disclosure.
“Garda Keogh complained to this tribunal that senior officers of An Garda Síochána targeted or discredited him following the protected disclosure that he made on May 8th, 2014,” Mr Justice Seán Ryan said in his report, published on Thursday.
“The tribunal in this report details its consideration of all of the instances of targeting and discrediting that Garda Keogh set out in his complaint and is satisfied on the evidence that the complaints are not justified.”
The complaints investigated by the tribunal were into such matters as “micro-supervision” at Athlone Garda station, an alleged delay in the payment of travel expenses, confinement to indoor duty, sick-leave matters, investigations into Garda Keogh’s protected disclosure allegations, matters to do with bullying allegations, and the promotion of an officer colleague.
The case does not reveal evidence of the conduct envisaged by the Oireachtas in its mandate to the inquiry in the term of reference that led to the public hearings, the judge said.
“This is not to say that everything that happened in relation to Garda Keogh was satisfactory.
“Neither does it mean that Garda Keogh acted in bad faith.
“It is important, however, in fairness to the serving and retired garda officers whom Garda Keogh accused of serious misconduct, to state that the tribunal finds that the charges are not substantiated.”
Among those against whom Garda Keogh made allegations was the former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.
“The political atmosphere in 2014 in regard to Garda and justice matters was febrile, with allegations of scandal and maltreatment of whistleblowers, including the shocking story of Sergeant Maurice McCabe,” the judge said.
“Many in the media and political worlds suspected An Garda Síochána of cover-ups and wrongdoing,” he said.
He said Garda Keogh was predisposed to suspicion of the Garda investigation set up to examine his complaints, and of its leader, Dónall Ó Cualáin, whom he saw as part of the force’s establishment.
“Somehow this led him to the extreme conclusion that the assistant commissioner was intent on sabotaging the investigation he was appointed to head.”
Garda Keogh accepted that there was no evidence to back up this jaundiced view of the officer but held on to the belief, notwithstanding that he came to trust the senior detectives who were conducting and directing the enquiries, the judge said.
“Garda Keogh saw himself as a person engaged in a struggle with the establishment of a large and malign organisation that was determined to do him down because he had pointed out corruption.”
Garda Keogh’s involvement in political affairs seems likely to have added its measure of mental pressure, the judge said, referring to the Garda’s dealings with a number of politicians.
“Also, his resort to alcohol as a means of alleviating stress may well have done the opposite to the intended effect.”
Garda Keogh’s complaint to the tribunal listed 22 occasions where he alleged he had been targeted, although he did not proceed with all of these issues at the public hearing.
"The abandoned issues included a very serious and damaging one in which he alleged that former commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan telephoned Superintendent Pat Murray in April 2015 to tell him to pull away from Garda Keogh and to isolate him.
“Garda Keogh told the tribunal that he could not remember who had told him about the alleged phone call. Obviously, the claim was taken very seriously by the former commissioner and also by Supt Murray.”
The allegation against the officers was of more general significance, the judge said, because it reveals Garda Keogh’s “state of mind” in 2015.