Misconduct claims in Department of Transport spark Garda inquiry

Harris orders investigation into alleged interference with reports on marine casualties

“Gardaí are examining allegations of misconduct in public office in relation to investigations into the seafaring tragedies and the implementation of maritime safety regulation...”

“Gardaí are examining allegations of misconduct in public office in relation to investigations into the seafaring tragedies and the implementation of maritime safety regulation...”

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Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has instructed detectives to investigate allegations of misconduct in public office in the Department of Transport.

The investigation relates to allegations that department officials interfered with inquiries into marine casualties by altering investigative reports which made criticisms of the department and removing safety recommendations made by investigators.

In January, maritime lawyer Michael Kingston, whose father was killed in the Whiddy Island oil tanker disaster in 1979, met senior gardaí and made a series of detailed allegations regarding what he said was misconduct in public office by the department.

He said on Wednesday he received confirmation Mr Harris has referred the matter to detectives in the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI) which has responsibility for investigating allegations of this type. This has been confirmed to The Irish Times.

‘Criminal act’

In a statement, Garda headquarters said on Friday: “Gardaí are examining allegations of misconduct in public office in relation to investigations into the seafaring tragedies and the implementation of maritime safety regulation to determine if a criminal act has occurred where a criminal investigation should be undertaken.”

Sources said the investigation was in the extremely early stages and no findings of wrongdoing had yet been made against anyone.

Mr Kingston, who is also a consultant with the International Maritime Organisation, said he has been in contact with several “whistleblowers” who have worked with the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) and who have reported allegations of serious misconduct.

‘Tell the truth’

According to Mr Kingston these whistleblowers are willing to speak to gardaí as part of the investigation. “They will sit down with the guards and they will tell the truth.”

In response to queries, a Department of Transport spokesman said it had not been notified of an investigation “and has no comment in that regard”.

“A question about Garda investigations would be a matter for An Garda Síochána. ”

The MCIB tasks investigators with examining maritime accidents before drawing up reports and making recommendations. It does not enforce legislation and does not attribute blame, rather it issues recommendations on how future incidents can be avoided.

It has conducted almost 300 investigations in its 20-year existence.