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Tribunal hears claims garda whistleblower went 'awol' from duty for four-day drinking binge

Garda Nicholas Keogh believes the days off duty were a medically certified absence.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

A GARDA SUPERINTENDENT told a tribunal that a garda whistleblower went ‘awol’ from duty during a four-day drinking binge for which he was disciplined.

The Disclosures Tribunal is hearing from Garda Nicholas 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. 

Today, Judge Sean Ryan heard that Garda Keogh was absent without leave from 11-14 July 2015. Garda Keogh reported sick and unfit for duty on July 9. 

However, in a statement to the tribunal, Garda Keogh said that “this medically certified absence was irrationally turned by Superintendent Pat Murray into a charge of being absent without leave”. 

He said that he phoned the station to say he was going off sick leave on 10 July and did not report for duty on the following four days. 

It was reported to Superintendent Patrick Murray and Garda Keogh provided a retrospective sick certificate on 16 July to cover the days.

Garda Keogh said that this was a “mix up”.

“I apparently had rung ‘off sick’. I was, on the contrary, sick. It was at most a mistake,” he said in a statement. 

A diary, belonging to Garda Keogh, was shown to the tribunal which included entries of “awol drink” for 11 July and 12 July.

Superintendent Murray, in his statement, said that Garda Keogh “acknowledged his absence without leave and said he had reported fit for duty on 10 July while drunk, had forgotten he had done so and had been continuously drinking over the next few days and didn’t report for duty”. 

Superintendent Murray told Garda Keogh that the absence may be a breach of discipline and sought an explanation. He later recommended to the chief superintendent in Westmeath that “the matter be dealt with as a less serious breach of discipline”.

The tribunal was shown a report from Superintendent Murray that read:

“[Garda Keogh] admitted being AWOL. Said [he] reported on sick on 10 July 2015, in a fit of drink after drinking for a few days and said he forgot he reported off sick so didn’t go to work. Admitted to a drink problem and has stopped going to AA.” 

Garda Keogh was fined €300 by Superintendent Alan Murray for neglect of duty and was found not to be in breach of a discreditable conduct charge, which Garda Keogh denied.

In mitigation, Superintendent Alan Murray had regard to Garda Keogh stating that he was suffering from work-related stress and was drinking heavily. 

Garda Keogh told Judge Ryan he was taking issue with a date of a phone-call made by Superintendent Patrick Murray to him on the matter, claiming that it was made on 15 July and not the day before, of not receiving documents regarding his disciplinary investigation and that he did not knowingly avoid contact with his sergeants. 

Garda Keogh, while ‘absent’ sent a Facebook message to one of his sergeants, Cormac Moylan, apologising for his absence and saying that he had no credit in his phone. 

He appealed the fine, which was upheld by Chief Superintendent Lorraine Wheatley. 

Tax issues

Earlier, the tribunal had heard how Garda Keogh had received a ‘Regulation 10′ notice for not having the correct car tax on his private vehicle and of how some travel subsistence payments had been withheld from him until he rectified his tax. 

At the previous day’s hearing he felt that being issued the notice for not correctly taxing his Landrover Freelander was treating him differently to other gardai with “the same tax and were also driving commercial vehicles in the same way as me”. 

However, Garda Keogh told Judge Ryan this morning that he had to re-submit some travel forms that “went missing” and had to label them “re-submissions” because he was concerned with being accused of fraud. 

Garda Keogh said that his missing travel forms was a “smokescreen” to get to the car tax issue. 

“They knew there was a problem with the car tax, I didn’t,” he told Judge Ryan. 

Garda Keogh said the issue was a “minute thing” as his car was taxed in a different bracket – commercial, not private – not untaxed. 

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On the day he was to be disciplined, Garda Keogh told the tribunal of text messages between Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, his own superintendent and a chief superintendent.

Garda Keogh said that he knew of the message from billing documents he viewed but the nature of the messages could not be accessed. 

He said: “They could have been talking about the weather but there is no other pattern of text messaging between them” except for the date he was due to be disciplined, 3 April 2015. 

Garda Keogh will continue giving evidence for some days.

About the author:

Paul Neilan

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