Garda who took own life ‘could not have been cleared’ before death

Gsoc process not as advanced by time of Sgt Michael Galvin’s death as previously thought

Reports three years ago that a Garda sergeant who took his own life could have been told a week earlier that a criminal inquiry into him had exonerated him were not accurate, an inquiry has found.

Mr Justice Frank Clarke was asked by Government to inquire into the tragic case that ended with the suicide of Sgt Michael Galvin.

Mr Justice Clarke was charged with inquiring into the conduct of members of Gsoc who carried out a criminal investigation into three Garda members in Co Donegal in 2015.

The three were investigated about their interactions with a woman, Sheena Stewart (33), who was killed minutes after they spoke with her in Co Donegal in the early hours of January 1st, 2015.


Sgt Galvin and two colleagues spoke to Ms Stewart in Ballyshannon after reports from the public she had been sitting in the road. They said when they left her she was sitting on the pavement.

But minutes after they left, to answer a report of another unrelated traffic incident, she was fatally hit by a car while sitting in the road.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) said Sgt Galvin, a married father of three, was known for his professionalism and obliging nature.

It said his family had gone through great distress over his death and it called for a meeting with Gsoc to discuss the agency’s shortcomings, as identified by Mr Justice Clarke.

AGSI general secretary said it must always be remembered Sgt Galvin “was not involved in any wrongdoing”.

“This is, and was, the clear outcome of the Gsoc inquiry. We must always emphasise this.”


Sgt Galvin became depressed as the Gsoc inquiry into him and his colleagues continued. On May 28th, 2015, some five months into the Gsoc inquiry, he took his own life at Ballyshannon Garda station.

It quickly emerged that a week before his tragic death, senior Gsoc investigators had decided he had no case to answer. This led to anger locally and in the Garda, with many questioning why Sgt Galvin was not immediately informed.

Mr Justice Clarke said it was clear the final stages of the inquiry had gone in Sgt Galvin’s favour. However, he said the impression was given in public debate that Gsoc was ready to inform him he had been cleared only for a delay to have occurred in that regard.

It was suggested at the time that had Gsoc moved more quickly to inform him he was cleared, he would never have killed himself.

However, in his final report Mr Justice Clarke has set out the timeline of key events. And that timeline disproves that narrative.

A decision was initially made on May 22nd, 2015, within Gsoc not to prosecute Sgt Galvin. That was just one day after Sgt Galvin was interviewed by the ombudsman’s investigators.

But at the time of Sgt Galvin’s death, that recommendation still had to go to the Gsoc commissioners and the DPP for consideration and a final decision.

“There was, unfortunately, no reality to there having been any prospect of Sgt Galvin being informed of the fact that no prosecution was to progress for at least five or six weeks thereafter,” he said.

“Tragically, as we know, Sgt Galvin took his own life one week later,” he said.

Mr Justice Clarke added while Sgt Galvin was indeed set to be cleared, the process was not as advanced at the time of his suicide as has been suggested.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times