Garda whistleblower who said he was targeted ‘became irrational’, tribunal finds

Disclosures Tribunal dismisses 22 claims made by Garda Nicky Keogh against senior officers

 Garda whistleblower Nicholas Keogh at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle in 2019. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Garda whistleblower Nicholas Keogh at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle in 2019. File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Then TD and now MEP, Ming Flanagan brought the allegations made by Garda Nicky Keogh to the Dáil’s floor during Leaders’ Questions on May 8th, 2014, the same day the Athlone garda made a protected disclosure.

“There was a systematic and orchestrated effort by high-ranking Garda officers to induce and coerce citizens, in this case citizens with no previous criminal convictions, to buy drugs from drug dealers, putting them in personal danger.”

The objective in Athlone, was to boost crime figures, but that result was that “these mostly young citizens of the State, who had no previous drug convictions, now have serious drug convictions”.

Flanagan asked then Labour leader, Ruairí Quinn, who was deputising for taoiseach Enda Kenny: “What will the government do to reassure the whistleblower that he will not be bullied or have a rat hung on his door?”

The exchanges between the two are referred to in Thursday’s 792-page report by the Disclosures Tribunal, headed by the former president of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Seán Ryan.

In evidence, Garda Keogh said he had agreed to go public with Flanagan: “We felt it would be better if it was out in the open and it would be harder to do a cover-up on it,” he said.

Keogh joined the gardaí in 2000 and worked in Bray, Co Wicklow, transferring to Westmeath in 2006. He served with the Athlone drugs unit for two years, until August 2011.

Keogh had a perfect attendance record up to 2011, but this changed. During 2012 he spent time in an alcohol rehabilitation residential centre, and was absent from work for significant periods during 2013 and 2014.

In early 2014, Keogh began to meet Flanagan to discuss concerns he had about alleged Garda corruption in Athlone. Flanagan contacted the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission about Keogh’s claims, and raised them in the Dáil.

The day after Keogh made his protected disclosure, assistant Garda commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin was appointed to investigate. In the months after the disclosure Keogh’s work attendance was good.

But by year’s end it had begun to deteriorate, with leave taken for stress. According to the report, he has been on long-term sick leave since December 26th, 2015.

In the report, the tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Ryan, noted that Keogh worked in the same station as another garda who has featured in the tribunal’s work, known as Garda A.

Many of their colleagues knew what was going on. The situation, the judge said, “gave rise to tensions for members generally, and was an understandable reason that Garda Keogh would feel stressed”.

Garda Keogh’s involvement in political affairs, the judge said, “seems likely to have added its measure of mental pressure” and Keogh’s resort to alcohol worsened matters.

The tribunal does not investigate Keogh’s protected disclosure allegations, but does note that Ó Cualáin’s report was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions and that no charges arose.

In his report to the commissioner, Ó Cualáin said the investigation had uncovered suspicions of criminal behaviour by gardaí in Athlone, but short of what was required to bring a prosecution.

Keogh’s disclosure was not vexatious and was made in good faith, says Mr Justice Ryan, who addresses, comprehensively, his 22 complaints that he was targeted and discredited by senior officers for making his protected disclosure.

The complaints included alleged bullying, delays in the payment of expenses, and confinement to indoor duty: “The truth is,” Mr Justice Ryan said, “the officers accused by Garda Keogh did not target him or discredit him.”

Garda Pat Murray. Keogh made a bullying allegation against Murray, and when Keogh heard that Murray had applied for promotion, Keogh initiated a ‘campaign of opposition’, the tribunal report reads. Photograph: James Flynn/APX. Photograph: James Flynn/APX
Garda Pat Murray. Keogh made a bullying allegation against Murray, and when Keogh heard that Murray had applied for promotion, Keogh initiated a ‘campaign of opposition’, the tribunal report reads. Photograph: James Flynn/APX. Photograph: James Flynn/APX

One of the officers who had to wait for a number of years for the allegation against him to be dismissed was Chief Supt Pat Murray.

Murray, then a superintendent, was transferred to Athlone in 2015. “Garda Keogh formed the view, to which he has adhered unshakeably ever since, that the superintendent was hostile to him from the outset,” Mr Justice Ryan said.

Keogh believed Ó Cualáin had transferred Murray to Athlone to drive Keogh out. “The fact that there is no evidence to support this theory does not affect Garda Keogh’s relentless hostility to Supt Murray.”

Keogh made a bullying allegation against Murray, and when Keogh heard that Murray had applied for promotion, Keogh initiated a “campaign of opposition”, the report reads.

After Flanagan was elected to the European Parliament in May 2014, he put deputies Mick Wallace and Clare Daly in contact with Keogh, and they began speaking publicly about his concerns.

In late March 2015, Keogh met the two TDs. The following day in the Dáil, Wallace said they had been speaking to “some new whistleblowers” who had later “faced harassment, bullying, intimidation, cover-up, denial, and delay”.

Daly and Wallace raised Keogh’s grievances “at first without naming the person held to be responsible, but later identifying Supt Murray by name,” the judge said.

In his evidence to the tribunal, Murray said he heard his promotion application mentioned by Daly during an Oireachtas committee meeting with the Policing Authority, which was then was considering Murray’s promotion.

“I was concerned that there was an attempted character assassination of me with a view to interfering with my career prospects by creating fear in others that in some way there was a risk if I was promoted,” he said.

“I believe that Garda Keogh and his political supporters and some elements of the media had an unhealthy fixation with me.”

In February 2017, Murray said he heard Wallace on RTÉ radio’s Drivetime asking in Dáil Éireann “why the superintendent who had bullied Garda Keogh was placed on a promotion list to the rank of chief superintendent.”

In his report, Mr Justice Ryan said Murray had applied successfully for promotion, though Keogh “together with his advisers and supporters” had applied “political and media pressure” to stop him.

Readers, said Mr Justice Ryan, could ask how Keogh could have been wrong in relation to all of his complaints, though he listed the pressure Keogh was under, the resulting stress and his misuse of alcohol as factors.

“The tribunal’s inference from all of the evidence is that suspicion, disappointment, stress, and misunderstanding, against the background of long-term alcohol addiction, meant that Garda Keogh became irrational, and even at times paranoid.”

The inquiry, which had 53 days of hearings into Keogh’s complaints, is examining the possibility of investigating complaints from two, or three other whistleblowers who say they were targeted after they made disclosures.