Army reservist challenges discharge over risk to national security

Kealan Harrington believes dismissal is linked to his role as spokesman for family of Aaron Brady


A member of the Reserve Defence Forces (RDF) has brought a High Court challenge over a decision to discharge him on grounds he is a risk to national security.

Kealan Harrington, a marketing executive, strongly denies being a risk to national security. He believes his dismissal is linked to his role as public spokesperson for the family of Aaron Brady, who was convicted and jailed last year for the murder of Garda Adrian Donoghue.

The High Court heard Mr Harrington joined the RDF in 2014. A year later, he joined the Permanent Defence Forces, but left shortly afterwards. In 2019 he re-enlisted in the RDF and was subject to security vetting and security analysis. He claims, following a meeting with three superiors, he was told last April he was being discharged as his services were no longer required and he was a security risk to the State.

He claims, despite asking for material concerning the reasons for his discharge, nothing has been provided to him. His discharge is unlawful and in breach of natural and constitutional justice, he claims.

From Ballintemple, Co Cork, he also claims the manner of his discharge contravenes Defence Force regulations. He claims he was denied the chance to make his case, denied a fair hearing, and has been dismissed without any proper agreed process.

In judicial review proceedings against the Minister for Defence, Ireland and the Attorney General, he wants an order quashing the decision, made effective on May 17th last, to discharge him from the RDF.

Represented by David Geoghegan BL, Mr Harrington wants orders remitting the purported discharge to the Minister to be determined in accordance with law and with regulations applicable to members of the RDF.

Counsel said Mr Harrington was not told in advance what the April meeting was about and has never been presented with the reasons or grounds for asserting that he is a security risk to the state. Following correspondence between solicitors, his client was informed the discharge decision arose out of an incident at the gate of Collins Barracks, Cork last October when he asked the guard on duty when gym and training sessions would re-start.

He said he was asked for his military ID but did not have any and was kept there until an officer came and asked him why he was attempting to gain access. Counsel said his client believes that incident arose due to “a misunderstanding”.

Mr Harrington was subsequently brought in for a meeting with the Military Police over the incident and was eventually told that was part of a disciplinary process. Arising out the gate incident, his client was wrongly accused of trying to impersonate an officer but his complaint over that incident was dismissed by a superior officer.

His client believes Mr Harrington’s decision to act as a spokesperson for the family of convicted murderer Aaron Brady is the reason for his discharge from the RDF, counsel said.

Mr Harrington said, following an approach by a friend, he is developing an online campaign to help the Brady family. They claim Mr Brady, who is appealing his conviction, is innocent of Garda Donohoe’s murder. His involvement in this campaign was never mentioned to him by the Defence Forces but Mr Harrington feels it may have influenced the decision to dismiss him as a security risk, counsel said.

When the matter came before Mr Justice Charles Meenan on an ex-parte basis on Monday, the judge directed the application for permission to bring the challenge be made on notice to the respondents and returned the matter to November.