Athlone Whistleblower Denies Being Told He Was Unfit For Duty

A garda medical officer recommended Garda Keogh be “stood down” from work.

A garda medical officer recommended that a garda whistleblower be “stood down” from work after noting he was taking alcohol and Xanax together, the Disclosures Tribunal has heard.

On the seventh day of evidence, Garda Keogh told Judge Sean Ryan that a reference to an assassination attempt on Hitler was indicative of his fear about making allegations against senior officers.

The tribunal is in its second week hearing from Garda Keogh who alleges that a 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 how Garda Keogh was treated - whether or not he was harassed, targeted or bullied - after he made his protected disclosure in 2014.

Shane Murphy SC, who is representing the Garda Commissioner and 38 other named gardaí, questioned Garda Keogh over his alcohol dependency, before and around the time of his protected disclosure in May 2014.

The tribunal heard that Garda Keogh had been struggling with his drinking since 2012 and that it led to long periods of reporting in as sick and unfit for duty.

Garda Keogh testified that he had "no dispute" when it was put to him he had a drinking problem. "It's in the diary, the days when I drank."

Mr Murphy referenced a 2012 sick report written by a Sargent Tully at Athlone Garda Station, that recorded Garda Keogh had been absent from work for May-July 2012 to attend treatment.

Sargent Tully noted that Garda Keogh's coping skills "were being tested", that he got on well" with colleagues, but that was "easily upset by the rough and tumble" of the job and that he was "a bit mixed up".

"In 2012, you had significant alcohol problems," Mr Murphy said to Garda Keogh.

Garda Keogh agreed and said he used alcohol as a "crutch" when he was deciding to go through with making his protected disclosure.

"I did use alcohol as a crutch but what was a pass-time then became a habit and then an addiction. I didn't realise the power of it," said Garda Keogh.

Garda Keogh was questioned over a diary entry for April 2014, a month before making his disclosure, in which he wrote:

"Feelings of fear. Diarrhoea caused by anxiety in stomach. Legs feel like jelly. heart beats faster. Hands tremble. Wonder what von Staufenberg felt when he attempted to take down Hitler. Paranoid but committed."

Mr Muprhy asked if Garda Keogh felt like von Stauffenberg, who tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

"No, no. I was feeling so fearful. I knew the history of whistleblowers and that I'd be taking on Garda management, a core group of senior officers,” he said.

Garda Keogh said that he was using Xanax, which is prescribed for anxiety and panic attacks, and that his doctor "definitely did not" say it could be used with alcohol.

"I was trying to stop drinking and I remember on the bottle it said 'do not use with alcohol'. Curiosity killed the cat," said Garda Keogh.

Mr Murphy then drew Garda Keogh's attention to a diary entry for November 2015, a month before Garda Keogh went on his current sick leave.

Days 16, 17, 18 November are recorded as sick days with references to drink.

On 19 November Garda Keogh's diary entry reads: "Stopped drinking. Noticed about 20 Xanax gone. Only drank 6 [bottles] wine and 7 cans in 4 days. Struggling to cope."

Garda Keogh said that he was on his "last legs at this stage" before he called in sick on 26 December, 2015.

Mr Murphy said that the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) with Gardaí recommended Garda Keogh be "stood down".

"The CMO took the opinion that you were unfit for work on 18 December, 2015. It's marked in his notes. You were taking alcohol with Xanax," said Mr Murphy.

A Garda memo from December 2015 was also shown to the tribunal saying that Garda Keogh should "be booked into a treatment facility to help rehabilitate him".

Garda Keogh said that the CMO did not say to him that he was "unfit" for duty and that he had a note in his diary reading that he was in work on 21 December, 2015.

Mr Murphy put it to Garda Keogh that "reality and your perception of reality differ" when it came to the medical reports.

"The CMO and management had taken the decision [to stand Gda Keogh down], it's a false perception on your part," said Mr Murphy.

Garda Keogh disagreed saying that the CMO and Garda Keogh's GP had met and discussed welfare issues "but I had no notification that I was sick and unfit for duty".

"I'd have given anything to not go in," Garda Keogh emphasised.

"Yesterday I was a mastermind. I was accused of running a media campaign like some mastermind with politicians and today I can't function?"

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