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Monday 4 December 2023 Dublin: 5°C
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disclosures tribunal

Former Garda sergeant got sick from stress on first day back after making bullying complaint

The tribunal heard from a retired Garda Sergeant who complained that the proper investigation of a child sexual assault allegation was prevented by a superintendent.

A FORMER SERGEANT who claims he was bullied and harassed by garda management has told the Disclosures Tribunal that he “puked up his guts” on his first day back to work after being forced to return from stress-related leave.

The tribunal is hearing from retired Garda Sergeant Paul Barry, formerly of Mitchelstown Garda Station in Co Cork, who made a 2012 complaint that the proper investigation of a child sexual assault allegation was prevented by a superintendent, who he says bullied and harassed him. The Director of Public Prosecutions later directed there be no prosecution of the child sex assault allegation.

The former garda claims the investigation found that one of the alleged suspects was connected to senior gardaí, the tribunal has also heard.

After a criminal investigation, the DPP directed in November 2015 that there be no prosecution relating to Mr Barry’s claims that the superintendent had perverted the course of justice, due to a lack of evidence.

Today at the tribunal, which is being held in Dublin Castle, Mr Barry said that he was forced to return to work in Mitchelstown in 2013 without a medical certificate clearing him to do so from his GP. He said he returned because he was on a reduced salary due to his “work-related illness” being recorded as an “ordinary injury” on Garda systems.

“On the first day back at work, I went into the cubicle and puked my guts up,” Mr Barry told Shane Murphy SC, counsel for the Commission of An Garda Síochána. 

Mr Barry reported being unfit for duty on 6 August 2012, due to work-related stress and bullying he alleges as being caused by Superintendent Michael Comyns and targeting he alleges as being caused by Chief Superintendent Gerard Dillane of Fermoy Garda District.

Mr Barry says he was out sick for 239 days in total.

Today, Mr Barry told Mr Murphy that he had GP advice that he should not to return to work when he did so in March 2013. He later received a medical back-dated certificate from his GP stating that he could return to work as long as he did not come into contact with Supt Comyns.

A case conference in respect of Mr Barry was held at Garda Headquarters on 8 April 2013, the notes of which record the request of Mr Barry’s GP could not be met on “grounds of reasonability and practicality”.

Mr Barry denied to Mr Murphy that this situation made him therefore ”effectively unanswerable” to the superintendent because Inspector Anthony O’Sullivan had been designated to supervise his work.

On 9 April 2013, Dr Oghenovo Oghuvbu, of the Garda Occupational Health Service, recommended that temporary workplace accommodations be put in place for Mr Barry.

Mr Barry told Mr Murphy that no temporary accommodations were put in place and that the only action taken was an offer by Chief Supt Dillane that he apply for a transfer out of Mitchelstown.

Mr Barry said that, while he was open to a transfer, he felt “pressured” by management to apply for one and in the end refused to do so because, had he applied, it would have a financial impact on him.

If a Garda member applies for a transfer, the cost is borne by the member rather than the tax-payer, as is the case when management orders one, the tribunal has heard.

Mr Barry appealed a transfer to Glanmire because he had relatives in the area, which is contrary to Garda code, and rejected the suggestion of Carrigtwohill station as “ridiculous”, due to the small size of the station taking on a second sergeant.

He said that he never would have formally requested a transfer because of the cost but also did not suggest any station he would be willing to consider because that could be used as a “reason to transfer me if put on paper”.

Mr Barry told Mr Murphy that he never expressed a view to Chief Supt Dillane that he said he was “going nowhere and if anyone was to go it should be Supt Comyns”.

Mr Murphy suggested that Mr Barry had no intention of returning to work based on his answers to the tribunal last week when he said: “If I could have afforded it, I never would have gone back. I hated going back to work. I was trying to get my illness classified as work-related. I was not trying to get a medical pension.”

Mr Barry has told the tribunal that worked at Mitchelstown until 2014 when he began his retirement process after being physically sick at the Irish open due to the presence of Supt Comyns at the event.

Mr Barry told Diarmuid McGuinness SC that he was rostered to work at the golf tournament at Fota Island in June 2014. Superintendent John Quilter had been in charge of Garda planning for the event, assisted by Inspector Eoghan Healy. Mr Barry was detailed for duty between Barrystown roundabout and Carrigtwohill Village, reporting to Insp Healy.

However, in the run-up to the event, Supt Quilter took annual leave and Supt Comyns was designated to take over by Ch Supt Dillane. Mr Barry says he was required to attend a large garda briefing held by Supt Comyns, putting both men in the same room.

Mr McGuinness asked Mr Barry if his presence in the same room as Supt Comyns for the meeting breached the medical advice issued by the CMO and his GP. “Yes, because it made me physically sick,” said Mr Barry.

In his statement to the tribunal, Mr Barry states: “I believe I was targeted for this duty by both Supt Quilter and Supt Comyns, as both would have been aware I did not want to have any contact with Supt Comyns. I became physically sick and the whole event caused me a lot of stress. Had I refused to attend this golf duty, it would have given them another reason to transfer me. I believe Supt Quilter deliberately took leave so that I would have to deal with Supt Comyns.”

Mr Barry says he submitted his retirement application immediately after the golf duty as “I didn’t ever want to go through this again”.

Ch Supt Dillane, Supt Comyns and Supt Quilter all deny Mr Barry’s targeting and discrediting allegations as “unfounded, hurtful and vexatious”.

The tribunal resumes hearing Mr Barry’s evidence tomorrow.