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Whistleblower accused of not acknowledging efforts to help him deal with alcohol issue, tribunal told

The tribunal is in its second week hearing from Garda Nicholas Keogh.

Garda Nicholas Keogh
Garda Nicholas Keogh
Image: RollingNews.ie

A GARDA WHISTLEBLOWER has been accused of not acknowledging efforts to help him deal with his “tragic alcohol sickness”, a tribunal has heard.

Garda Nicholas Keogh is giving evidence at the Disclosures Tribunal, where counsel for An Garda Síochána is cross-examining him.

The tribunal is in its second week hearing from Garda Keogh who alleges that a senior member of the Athlone drugs unit, identified to the tribunal as Garda A, was in an improper relationship with a heroin dealer, identified as Ms B, who had a then-estimated €2,500 a week income.

The tribunal, chaired by Judge Sean Ryan, is investigating if Garda Keogh was targeted, harassed or bullied by Garda management after he made his protected disclosure on 8 May 2014.

‘Anxious’ 

The tribunal heard that Garda Keogh had bouts of being absent without leave, due to drinking and stress, in July 2015.

In March 2015, Garda Keogh met with his new superintendent, Patrick Murray, who addressed Garda Keogh’s absences.

Shane Murphy SC, for An Garda Síochána, said that Supt Murray was “anxious” to address Garda Keogh’s sick days and alcohol issue.

Garda Keogh told Judge Ryan that he was being marked down as having flu when he was, according to his own doctor’s certs, suffering with work-related stress and alcohol abuse.

Garda Keogh was asked by Mr Murphy if he used Xanax, the anti-anxiety pill, when he was drinking and was told “not all the time”.

“I told Supt Murray that I was under a lot of stress and that I was still working alongside Garda A but Supt Murray twice told me that I was ‘under no stress’.”

Garda Keogh also said that the Chief Medical Officer was “kept in the dark” and had “information withheld” from him about Garda Keogh’s stress.

On 7 July 2015, at 10.15am, Garda Keogh rang his Welfare Officer, Garda Mick Quinn, to tell him he was “going drinking” – a note entered in Garda Keogh’s diary said.

Mr Murphy asked if this was an indication of going drinking for “a long time”.

“When I go drinking, it’s like a car with no brakes,” Garda Keogh told Judge Ryan.

“I might intend to go for one night but stopping is the problem.”

Garda Keogh’s diary showed him AWOL for four days, the latter part of a seven-day “binge”.

Garda Keogh made a statement on the subsequent disciplinary process, mistakenly describing Supt Patrick Murray as behaving “vindictively”.

In fact, it was a Superintendent Alan Murray who carried out the disciplinary process.

Garda Keogh later corrected the record to the tribunal but Mr Murphy asked if Gda Keogh had memory problems due to his use of alcohol and Xanax.

“Some of this goes back to 2008,” said Garda Keogh. “I’m only human. Certain things get priority.”

In July, 2015, Garda Keogh rang in “off sick”, which he meant to mean that he was taking sick days but it was recorded as him being fit for work.

However, the call was made while he was drinking and he did not turn up for four days.

Mr Murphy asked if he was “drunk and taking Xanax at the time?”

“I’m not sure, it could have been the case,” said Garda Keogh.

‘Work-related stress’

Supt Patrick Murray opened a case conference about Garda Keogh and sought a written explanation from Garda Keogh about going AWOL.

Mr Murphy said that Supt Patrick Murray responded “rationally and reasonably” to a “breakdown in discipline” and that any superior officer would have done the same, adding it was “not irrational” procedure.

“The reality is that you let your colleagues down and you were drunk and on Xanax and in disciplinary breach but your perception completely ignores that,” said Mr Murphy.

Garda Keogh said that the CMO should have been informed of the work-related stress and said that Supt Patrick Murray was incorrect in the date he rang Garda Keogh about going AWOL.

“Feel free to come back to it but I feel the date is not really relevant,” said Judge Ryan.

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Mr Murphy said that Supt Patrick Murray told Garda Keogh that if his drinking was to continue that he would be confined to indoor duty and that a report showed he was “more and more concerned about Garda Keogh’s condition”.

“If he was so concerned,” said Garda Keogh, “why were my medical certs regarding work-related stress kept from the CMO?”

Mr Murphy said: “This is a classic example of your obsession about labels,” adding that Supt Patrick Murray “was trying to address your tragic alcohol sickness”.

Mr Murphy said that there were “two different perspectives with one seeking to fix the problem” with the other offering “bureaucratic” responses.

“Do you not see in hindsight, that Supt [Patrick] Murray was seeking to address the problem?”

Garda Keogh repeated that he was under a lot of pressure, that the CMO was kept in the dark and that Garda A was still working with him at the time.

“I can only take so much as a person,” he said.

About the author:

Paul Neilan

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