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Case that could block 410 gardaí from getting promoted hears inappropriate questions asked at sergeant interview

Garda Keith Blythe claims he was asked an inappropriate question regarding whistleblowers at his own promotion interview earlier this year.

File Photo Middle-ranking gardaí say there is a chronic shortage of supervisors to monitor the increased number of gardaí being recruited. The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors said more than 160 more sergeants are needed immediately. End Source: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

GARDA KEITH BLYTHE, who is seeking legal restraints that have the potential to block the immediate promotion of 410 gardai to the rank of sergeant, was asked an inappropriate question regarding ‘whistleblowers’, the High Court has heard.

Blythe, a long serving garda who is married with a family, told the court he was “concerned” when he was asked the question by a senior garda officer in the course of an interview conducted in April last as part of the competition for sergeant process.

“I was left uneasy about the interjection and tried to maintain my focus and concentration during the interview,” he stated in a sworn affidavit to the court.

Blythe, of Naas, Co Kildare, who is attached to the legal department in Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park, Dublin, is seeking High Court orders that could potentially prevent the promotion of the 410 candidates selected from 1,414 who sought promotion to the rank of sergeant.

Conor Power SC, who appeared with barrister Mark J Dunne, for the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner, told Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon today that he would be serving Garda Blythe’s legal team with an affidavit setting out the respondents’ side of the matter.

When the affidavit was completed and served Power told the court it had been agreed that the matter should go back into the new law term next week.

Interview

Barrister Andrew Walker said Garda Blythe’s grounding affidavit revealed that he had scored 205 out of 250 in the interview section and believed his performance had been hampered and his scores impacted by the ‘whistleblower’ remarks resulting in him not being selected to advance to the next stage.

Walker, who appeared with Brian Rennick of Rennick Solicitors for Garda Blythe, said that when Blythe had been informed in June that he had not been selected to go forward he had made a formal complaint about the “inappropriate comments” of the Garda Officer.

Garda Blythe said in his affidavit that in other relevant sections of competence he had scored much higher and claimed that many candidates who got lower marks than him had been selected to go forward to the next stage of the competition. He had launched an internal appeal.

He said he had applied last year for consideration in the Garda Sergeant Promotion Competition in the hope of progressing his career. He had been disappointed after learning he had not been included in the selection of gardaí picked to go forward to the next stage in which he would have been interviewed by a Central Board.

Blythe told the court he had an exemplary conduct and attendance record and in order to help advance his career he had studied for and obtained a Diploma in Criminal Law and a Master’s Degree in Mediation and Conflict Intervention from Maynooth University.

He said that when the remarks regarding ‘whistleblowers’ had been made he deemed it as completely inappropriate and off-putting. Whilst he had endeavoured to maintain concentration and focus he had been left very much uneasy about the interjections.

Promotion

Garda Blythe said in his affidavit he believed the promotion system was without transparency, probity and fairness and was not based on merit as it was supposed to be.

He said there were unspecified principles and factors underlying selection for promotion and he felt he was the subject of a flawed interview as a result of inappropriate comments made by a board member.

He said Rennicks Solicitors had sought on his behalf an undertaking in regard to the continuation of the promotion process but this had not even been replied to.

Walker told the court that Garda Blythe was seeking an injunction restraining progression of the Garda Sergeant Promotion Competition until his internal appeal was fully investigated and completed.

Garda Blythe is also asking the court for a declaration that the conduct of the garda sergeant promotion system is tainted with irregularity and flawed and that he is entitled to advance to the Central Board interview.

In his claim against the Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner he also seeks damages for what he claims is a breach of contract and breach of duty on the part of the defendants.

Although the affidavit on behalf of the Minister and the Garda Commissioner was not opened to the court it was learned afterwards that the system and fairness of selection for promotion within An Garda Síochána would be fully outlined to the court next week.

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Aodhan O'Faolain and Ray Managh

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