Leitrim’s Sinn Féin Deputy Martin Kenny made a number of allegations of Garda Malpractice in the county from 2009 to this year in Dail Eireann last Thursday, May 26.
Here we publish the full trasncript of his speech in the Dáil.
Deputy Martin Kenny, “The reality is that malpractice is not confined to Cavan-Monaghan, which the O’Higgins report deals with, or indeed to Donegal where investigations were held in the past. At the outset, I want to state clearly that in my area of Leitrim, as in other places, the vast majority of gardaí are doing their job honestly and diligently.
“I intend to use this debate to raise issues of alleged Garda malpractice that have been brought to my attention by whistleblowers, both serving gardaí and former gardaí. Central to the many events I will now outline is the allegation that gardaí were engaging informants who were active criminals, which was in breach of the rules of the CHIS programme. CHIS is an acronym for the covert handing of intelligence sources. Another allegation is that gardaí were running their own informants outside the official CHIS programme. A third allegation is that some rogue gardaí have used informants or criminals over whom they have control to set up and entrap people for crimes and then prosecute them. The fourth allegation is that there were high ranking gardaí who protected these rogue gardaí and covered for them with secrecy and denial.
“The following are some of the allegations that have been brought to my attention over the past two years until recently. There is an allegation that a garda informant, working under the direction of two gardaí, robbed tools and a generator from a builder’s shed and then sold the generator to a man whose house was searched the next day and the stolen property recovered. The man was subsequently charged and convicted in relation to having stolen property.
“Another allegation is that a Garda informant was allegedly instructed by his handlers to set a trap for a person at an NCT centre. He placed money in a car as a bribe to get the car through the test. The car had some minor defect and should not have passed the NCT. The informant then told an employee at the NCT centre that the car was nearly okay and he had left a few euros in it. The car was passed and later that employee was charged, convicted of accepting a bribe, and lost his job. The main witness in the case was a Garda informant.
“A man was wrongly charged with possession of a stolen tractor, although there was no evidence other than that the tractor may have been collected from beside a farmyard owned by this man. He had co-operated totally with the initial Garda investigation and was not considered a suspect at any time by local gardaí. The investigation was taken over by a detective sergeant who instructed that the man would be charged, to the dismay of the other gardaí. As the man left the Garda station this detective sergeant followed him and waved the charge sheet at him saying: “I can make this go away if you bring me the real culprit.”
“One of the more serious incidents in Leitrim is the case of threats to the safety of two serving gardaí from a criminal gang. The detailed plans of a group of criminals preparing to attack these two gardaí at their private homes was known about by senior gardaí and for weeks the information was withheld from those men, both of whom have young families.
“The two serving gardaí accidentally found out that this gang was preparing to attack their homes and had been at their houses on a number of occasions. They later discovered that one of the gang was reporting criminal activity to CHIS and that he was also working outside the formal informant programme for other gardaí. When confronted on the issue, a senior garda in the Sligo-Leitrim division eventually admitted that he knew about the planned attacks, but said they "needed to protect the source of the information". The distraught gardaí were then assured that this would never happen again and any potential threats to members would be communicated and appropriate action taken.
“However, a short time after this, one of the gardaí was on duty alone in a Garda station in Leitrim. He went off duty at 4 a.m. and went home. At 8.30 a.m., he got a call to come back in because the station had been attacked and vandalised. During questioning of a man who admitted the attack on the Garda station, he claimed he was paid €100 to do it by another local man with a criminal record. The garda later learned that there was information in the possession of more senior gardaí that the station could be the subject of an arson attack on that very night. This Garda was in the station alone all night and was not informed of the possibility of an attack. The man who it was alleged paid to have attack carried out was an informant who worked for CHIS.
“I also have serious concerns around the investigation into the disappearance of a man who went missing in 2011 from his home in Aughavas, County Leitrim - my home parish. Mr. Pat Herran was a man who struggled with addiction problems. However, he was held in high regard in the local community. Around the time he was reported missing, a memorandum was distributed to gardaí about a "Pat from Leitrim" having been abducted and killed. When local gardaí arrived at the home of Mr. Herran to check into the report that he was missing, they considered the possibility of something sinister and wanted to have the house sealed off as a possible crime scene. However, senior gardaí dismissed this possibility and told them to make the usual inquiries and he would turn up drunk somewhere. After some time, when Garda management finally agreed to seal off and examine the house, they found it had been burgled in the meantime and was, therefore, forensically violated for the purposes of evidence gathering. There were also a number of individuals with links to Pat Herran whom the investigation team never even questioned, to the dismay of local gardaí. It is now known that a Garda informant was among the last people to be in Pat Herran's company before he disappeared. Pat Herran has never been found and his mother and siblings are heartbroken. The question is: was the protection of informants put before the proper investigation into the disappearance of Pat Herran?
“Now it is important to point out that, in 2009, two members of An Garda Síochána stationed in Leitrim brought their concerns about the handling of intelligence sources to the attention of the then Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, and they were fobbed off. In 2012, they first brought it to the attention of the then Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter, and again in 2014, after which the Minister delegated two officials from his office, including one of his chief advisers, to meet the two Garda whistleblowers. Most of the concerns I have outlined were expressed during a four-hour meeting. Indeed, documented detail of all these incidents was given to the Minister’s office at that time. Nothing ever came out of this meeting, save a letter from the Minister’s private secretary stating that no action would be taken. These past failures to deal with matters in the Leitrim district highlight the need to promptly establish a commission of investigation into Garda malpractice. I have this information and detail because, in 2014, I was made aware of allegations of Garda malpractice in Leitrim by two Garda whistleblowers and, indeed, how it related personally to me and my family. A man who claims to have been a Garda informant told me that he had been asked by certain named gardaí to carry out a robbery at my house. The informant claims he did not carry out the robbery. However, my house was broken into in March 2007 and items of value were stolen. I was an elected member of Leitrim county council at that time.
“While these incidents are several years old, I have also been contacted in the past few months by other serving gardaí who have also made allegations of malpractice in the Leitrim district.
“It is alleged that senior officers have reprimanded gardaí who have tried to investigate or raise concerns about criminal activity, including drugs offences, breaches of bail conditions and firearms offences. It is also alleged that senior gardaí in Leitrim have been engaged in aggressive and vindictive behaviour towards other members of the Garda and that abuses of positions of authority are common practice, leading to an atmosphere of fear and tension throughout the ranks.
“In February 2015, gardaí discovered a pipe bomb along a road near Drumshambo, County Leitrim. The two uniformed gardaí who discovered the pipe bomb are being disciplined for their activity around the discovery. There is widespread disquiet at all ranks in the county about the fact that these gardaí, who did their job properly, are being disciplined. It could have the effect - some believe the intended effect - of discouraging other gardaí in the county from taking an interest in criminal activity in case they too are disciplined.
“Earlier this year, a detective garda in Leitrim became aware of the existence of a gun in the possession of a member of a criminal gang operating in the area. However, the information was not put on the PULSE system, no searches were carried out and it was kept secret from almost all gardaí in the Leitrim district. A uniformed garda inadvertently found out about it and confronted the detective, who confirmed it had been reported to him but was being kept quiet. The garda immediately reported this to a sergeant who, in turn, confronted senior Garda management, who confirmed that they had known about it since the initial reporting. The sergeant expressed concern that uniformed members should have been made aware of this. As a result of this, a document was sent informing gardaí in the Sligo-Leitrim division that this person might have a gun. This was nine days after the initial report and this was despite the fact that the alleged criminal was carrying out his activities throughout a wide region. Failure to inform gardaí nationwide placed them at enormous risk. The failure to investigate this also placed members of the public at risk.
“Allegations of malpractice in Leitrim not only go back a number of years but are right up to date. The vast majority of honest, hardworking gardaí in Leitrim are totally opposed to illicit activities and malpractice. If true, the conclusion of these accusations is that a small cohort within the Garda in Leitrim have considered criminal activity as an opportunity for their own advancement and, at times, have manipulated situations for their own advancement. The only way forward is for the Minister to establish a commission of investigation into the matters I have raised and into any other instances of alleged malpractice that may come forward in the future.”
Further details of this story and reaction to the allegations will be in this week’s Leitrim Observer, out on Wednesday, June 1.