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Former Garda says he 'hated' being forced to return to work after making bullying complaints

The tribunal is hearing from retired Garda Sergeant Paul Barry, formerly of Mitchelstown Garda Station in Co Cork.
May 19th 2022, 6:21 PM 22,291 0

A FORMER GARDA sergeant has told the Disclosures Tribunal that he “hated” being forced to return to work for financial reasons after making his complaints of being bullied and targeted by superiors.

The tribunal is hearing from retired Garda Sergeant Paul Barry, formerly of Mitchelstown Garda Station in Co Cork, who made a protected disclosure 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 on the child sex assault allegation.

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

After a criminal investigation, the DPP directed in November 2015 there be no prosecution relating to Sergeant 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 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.

Mr Barry reported being unfit for duty on August 6, 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.

Mr Barry told Diarmaid McGuinness SC, for the tribunal, that he returned to duty despite his GP advising him not to do so without certain conditions being put in place for him.

The Garda system recorded Mr Barry as being absent due to “illness: flu/virus” from the period of August 6, 2012, to March 29, 2013. Any member absent from duty for an “ordinary illness” is put on reduced wages. However, if the member is certified as having an “injury on duty”, they are entitled to full pay without allowances for the period of absence.

In his statement, Mr Barry said he felt he was being “deliberately targeted” by management in this regard to “punish me financially”.

Mr Barry told Mr McGuinness that upon his return temporary accommodations were to be put in place to ensure his safe return to work but that he was only offered a transfer, which he refused to apply for on financial grounds.

Mr Barry told Mr McGuinness that if could have afforded not to return to Mitchelstown, he never would have done so. “If I could have afforded it, I never would have gone back. I hated going back to work,” said Mr Barry.

Mr Barry says he was told by a Garda inspector in Mitchelstown that upon his recommencement of duty he still could not return to full pay unless he had a medical certificate to confirm he was fit to do so. His GP later issued a certificate to say that Mr Barry could return to work as long as he did not come into contact with Supt Comyns.

Mr Barry told Mr McGuinness that because of his reduced wages while out sick he could not support his family without returning to work and had no choice but to return.

In her opening statement on Tuesday, Sinead McGrath BL told chairman Mr Justice Sean Ryan that Mr Barry has made nine allegations in total, one of which related to the district officer in Fermoy regarding his conduct in the investigation of an allegation of the sexual assault of a minor made to Mitchelstown Garda Station in February 2012.

During that investigation, Mr Barry claims, investigating members became aware that one of the alleged suspects was connected to Superintendent John Quilter, the district officer at Midleton Garda District and to Chief Superintendent Anthony Quilter, who was later the Assistant Commissioner for the Southern Region.

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Ms McGrath said that Mr Barry claims he conveyed this information to Superintendent Michael Comyns. Mr Barry’s bullying and harassment complaint of 2012 alleged that “the whole investigation was compromised by Supt Comyns’ actions and directions”.

Mr Barry, who also made seven protected disclosures, told tribunal investigators that “in my statement to Supt Patrick Lordan, I made an allegation that Supt Comyns had perverted the course of justice in relation to the manner in which he prevented the proper investigation of the rape/sexual assault of a child. He undermined my ability to carry out the investigation in a proper manner by his actions, and his actions were deliberately targeted to frustrate the investigation”.

Mr Barry says he was being punished by superiors for not “towing the line” and further alleges that subsequent investigations into other protected disclosures also amounted to a “perversion of the course of justice”.

Mr Barry first made his complaints through a bullying and harassment Garda procedure on October 2, 2012, and made his first protected disclosure the same day. In all, Mr Barry complained of eight incidents regarding Supt Comyns.

Mr Barry has also complained of his work-related stress not being investigated, of being pressured by management to transfer stations, of implied criticism of his report regarding a fatal fire, of an inquiry made by Garda management to his GP, and of being denied leave days.

The tribunal resumes hearing Mr Barry’s evidence tomorrow.

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Paul Neilan

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