Garda Sgt who took own life investigated by Gsoc about interaction with woman before her death

Commission cleared Sgt Michael Galvin, who took his own life before hearing the outcome

A Garda sergeant who took his own life in the station where he worked had been investigated by the Garda Ombudsman (Gsoc) about his interaction with a woman just minutes before she was killed by a passing vehicle.

Sgt Michael Galvin and two colleagues who spoke to the woman in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, early on January 1st last, were interviewed about her level of intoxication when they left her in the street and drove on.

When a discrepancy emerged between Sgt Galvin’s account and the CCTV footage of Sheena Stewart (33), of Letterkenny, Co Donegal, he was contacted by Gsoc and told he was under investigation.

Lying to or misleading an investigation into a fatality is a serious criminal offence.


The discrepancy that arose related to whether the woman was on the pavement or the road when Sgt Galvin and his colleagues drove on. Sgt Galvin told Gsoc that she was on the pavement.

Ms Stewart had been sitting and lying in the road in the early hours of January 1st when Sgt Galvin and his colleagues saw her as they drove in a Garda vehicle to an unrelated call out. They stopped and spoke to her before getting back into their van and driving off.

Within minutes she was sitting and lying in the road and was fatally struck by a taxi minibus.

When Sgt Galvin was contacted about the apparent discrepancy between his initial statement and the CCTV footage, he was invited to meet Gsoc investigators to be interviewed again.

Gsoc has said the matter was a criminal inquiry because a woman died. Sgt Galvin was interviewed under caution on May 20th but was not arrested.

One of the Gsoc commissioners, Kieran Fitzgerald said the decision to clear Sgt Galvin was reached on May 27th. The father of three took his own life in Ballyshannon station the following day, unaware of the outcome.

His widow Colette Galvin told mourners at his funeral that she hoped other Garda members would not face “horrendous” Gsoc investigations.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi) said Ms Galvin did not want Gsoc to investigate her husband’s death, as it is compelled to with any loss of life on Garda property occurs.

Mr Fitzgerald said the complaints body had a duty to investigate serious events involving gardaí and would “do the same again”.

He had reviewed the contact between Gsoc and Sgt Galvin and concluded it was “appropriate and responsible”. He accepted such inquiries could be stressful but said most gardaí “are used to that environment”.

Mr Fitzgerald added it was normal practice for Gsoc to send a file on a case at its conclusion to the DPP, which made the final decision on possible further action, at which time the decision would be relayed to the relevant parties.

He insisted the pattern of events in relation to Sgt Galvin was not different to other inquiries. Gsoc would continue with its inquiry into his death but would also commission a peer review of the inquiry and another of the initial investigation into Sgt Galvin, he added.

Mr Fitzgerald rejected Agsi’s call for a High Court judge to be appointed to review the case, saying such as step was not warranted.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times