Wallace in new claims of Garda harassment over Kilkenny pub
Independent TD claims ‘blatant disregard’ for new rules by some senior members of force
In the latest allegation of Garda malpractice, Wexford Independent TD Mick Wallace said the Field Bar in Kilkenny had been subject to consistent harassment since John McDonald, who had returned from the US, purchased it in 2007. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Independent TD Mick Wallace has claimed in the Dáil that a Garda inspector led a campaign of “sustained” harassment against the owners, staff and customers of a bar in Kilkenny.
Mr Wallace said the “blatant disregard for the new rules by some senior members of the force is just unbelievable. They seem to be lawless. They are certainly indisciplined and to a great extent dysfunctional.”
In the latest allegation of Garda malpractice, the Wexford TD said the Field Bar in Kilkenny had been subject to consistent harassment since John McDonald, who had returned from the US, purchased it in 2007.
Mr Wallace said the owner was arrested and held in a cell for five hours on one occasion a week after a meeting with Garda Supt Pádraig Dunne to discuss harassment of his premises.
He claimed in one incident a “visibly irate” garda was antagonistic to the owner’s wife in front of a bar full of customers, when he complained about tables and chairs on the street in front of the bar.
On another occasion, gardaí ordered the owner to close the bar despite it having a special exemption, while another bar with the same exemption remained open, he said.
Mr Wallace named a Garda Inspector, Liam Connolly, whom he said became “vociferously involved with every angle of harassment”.
The content of a meeting between the owner and Insp Connolly to discuss the incidents has become the subject of a complaint to the Garda Ombudsman.
Mr Wallace also claimed that in an incident in July this year, when gardaí entered another bar, Matt the Miller, at 2.30am, “Inspector Connolly was on the premises drinking, clearly intoxicated, but left hastily, no names were taken and no record of this inspection was recorded on the Pulse system.”
In another incident, where a member of the public with a knuckle duster pepper sprayed a customer and threatened other customers when he was refused entry, a garda arrived two hours later when the bar was closed.
Mr Wallace said the owners were at a loss to know the cause of the harassment but, quoting Mr McDonald, said he believed it was “motivated by a desire to unlawfully force our customer base to go to other premises”.
Mr Wallace was speaking during a Dáil debate on legislation introduced by Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins to strengthen the powers of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc).
Minister of State at the Department of Justice Aodhán Ó Ríordáin (Labour) did not refer directly to Mr Wallace’s allegations, but said “while I am aware of some of the disturbing and difficult cases which feed into a culture which needs to be addressed, now is the opportunity for us to address it”.
He acknowledged there were incidents which had shaken the confidence of the public, such as the Corrib gas situation, and he was aware of difficulties encountered by some young working-class men and their treatment in Garda stations.
Mr Ó Ríordáin said the Government’s chief aim was to restore the public’s confidence in the Garda Síochána, and An Garda Síochána’s confidence in itself.
He said: “So much good work is done on a daily basis by gardaí throughout the country.”
Asked about the matter, a Garda spokesman said “it would not be appropriate for An Garda Síochána to comment on a matter that is currently the subject of a GSOC investigation”.
The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors declined to comment.