Garda superintendent fails to get injunction allowing him to return to work

Officer was suspended more than a year ago when he was arrested and questioned over allegations he leaked confidential information

Mr Justice Senan Allen agreed the suspension was justified, and said he was satisfied to reject Supt O’Neill’s application for an injunction in its entirety.  Photograph: Getty Images

Mr Justice Senan Allen agreed the suspension was justified, and said he was satisfied to reject Supt O’Neill’s application for an injunction in its entirety. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The High Court has dismissed a Garda superintendent’s application to have his suspension lifted, entitling him to return to work.

Mr Justice Senan Allen ruled Supt Edmund Anthony O’Neill was not entitled to an injunction sought pending the outcome of his challenge over his suspension. He is being paid while suspended.

His suspension by the Garda Commissioner was justified, the judge said.

Supt O’Neill, who was part of a team of officers who secured five murder convictions in the Limerick city gangland feud, denies the allegations for which he was suspended, and claims they are false and “preposterous and mischievous in the extreme”.

He was first suspended more than a year ago when he was arrested and questioned over allegations he leaked confidential information and was in the presence of another senior officer who allegedly snorted cocaine. He is currently the subject of disciplinary and criminal investigations.

Supt O’Neill, the court noted, has been critical of the progress of those investigations. In his action he seeks orders including an injunction restraining his continued suspension, which he claims has adversely affected his health. The Garda Commissioner and the State opposed the injunction.

The superintendent, stationed at Roxboro Road, Limerick, says he was arrested after he was awoken in his bedroom on the morning of May 15th, 2019, to find several gardaí around him. He was taken to Athlone Garda station where he was questioned.

There were headlines in the national media that day about the arrest, and he was later released and served with a suspension notice. It is claimed he told a garda being investigated by the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation that a listening device had been placed on his car. That garda has since been charged with serious criminal conduct.

Supt O’Neill rejects that claim, and says he fully co-operated with the investigation over the alleged leaking of information.

Colleague

It was also alleged he was present in the Hurler’s Bar, Limerick, on January 9th, 2019, when a garda inspector colleague was alleged to have taken cocaine in his presence.

In relation to that allegation, he denies the officer took cocaine. The officer has not been charged, and it was reasonable to conclude there was no evidence of cocaine use, he claims.

Mr Justice Allen agreed the suspension was justified, and said he was satisfied to reject Supt O’Neill’s application for an injunction in its entirety. The superintendent had failed to make a strong case likely to succeed at the full hearing of the dispute.

The judge said the suspension was not invalidated by the fact the views of Supt O’Neill’s divisional officer were not canvassed nor by any disclosures to the media that he had been arrested. Details of his previous service, his involvement in the community, his sporting career, his arrest and the search of his home “were completely irrelevant to the validity of his suspension”.