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Garda Commissioner Drew Harris speaking at the PAC yesterday Oireachtas TV
Drew Harris

Garda Commissioner criticised for saying 'a lot of' bike case details 'not in public domain'

Drew Harris said he has ‘difficulty’ in talking about the case because ‘there is only partial information in the public domain’.

THE GARDA COMMISSIONER has been criticised for saying all of the details regarding a garda who was suspended over giving an unclaimed bicycle to an elderly man are “not in the public domain”.

The solicitor of the garda member at the centre of the case said comments made yesterday by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris at a Public Accounts Committee were ”extraordinary”. 

Senior Counsel Damien Tansey said he is “seeking clarification” and that the Garda Commissioner’s comments “suggested there was something blameworthy that is not in the public arena”.  

Earlier this month, the garda was cleared of any wrongdoing following a three-year suspension over giving the bicycle from a garda storeroom to an elderly man during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy yesterday asked Garda Commissioner Drew Harris about the bicycle case at a Public Accounts Committee.

“I completely understand that when a complaint is made, it has to be dealt with,” said Murphy, “but it does seem like it was a sledgehammer to crack a nut here.”

Harris replied that he has “difficulty” in talking about the case because “there is only partial information that has been put into the public domain”.

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Harris added: “I am reluctant to engage in the details of this because a lot of detail is not in the public domain.”

Murphy noted that the National Criminal Bureau for Investigation, who investigate the most serious offences, were deployed for the case.

She remarked that the “use of such resources for something of this nature, and the length of time of the suspension” was not appropriate.

Senior Counsel Damien Tansey told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the incident wasn’t “complex, yet took four years” to rectify. 

“To hear the Garda Commissioner suggest that there was something perhaps blameworthy that is not in the public arena, the member will be seeking clarification from the Commissioner and I will be contacting the Commissioner immediately.”

Tansey said he has “absolutely no idea” what Harris is referring to and that the garda member was ”fully vindicated” after a “painstaking inquiry”.

The president of the Garda Representative Association Brendan O’Connor has called on Harris to explain his comments and added that “damage was done” by them.

Speaking today, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said it wouldn’t be “appropriate” for her to comment on Harris’ PAC appearance because the case is a “disciplinary matter”.

“I won’t and I shouldn’t, nor should I ever, comment on a disciplinary matter or any other type of a situation where the gardaí have responsibility for this,” said McEntee.

However, she told reporters that a “more efficient and effective disciplinary process” is needed and that there are a number of regulations being developed which could be agreed to by the summer.

She added: “I think in a lot of instances, it goes on for too long and I think people need certainty on both sides and that’s why I hope the new regulations that we’re working through will provide that certainty.”

McEntee yesterday said the disciplinary process took “longer than anybody would like” but defended the system in place and said that the necessary process was followed.

The Bike case

Sources have said that the garda, stationed in the Midlands, had given the bike to the man but had failed to fill out the necessary paperwork.

When the incident came to light, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris suspended the experienced garda and directed the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation to probe the incident.

The missing bicycle was retrieved from the elderly man and the garda suffered a suspension of three years until August 2023, when an investigation file was found to not contain any criminal behaviour.

The Commissioner continued with a discipline probe and while the garda was back to work he was banned from dealing with the public.

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