Westmeath Garda Claims Commendation Was Withheld Because Of Whistleblower Status

The disclosures tribunal is hearing evidence from Athlone Garda Nicholas Keogh.

A Westmeath Garda who saved a drowning woman believes a commendation from management was withheld from him because he was a whistleblower, a tribunal has heard.

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.

The tribunal, chaired by Judge Sean Ryan, is investigating how Garda Keogh was treated after he made his protected disclosure in 2014.

On September 22, Garda Keogh went to the assistance of woman who had jumped into the river Shannon in Athlone between three and four am and pulled her out by her hair.

Another Garda grabbed onto him from behind, on a semi-submerged boat, to prevent Garda Keogh being pulled under by the weight of the woman.

In his statement to the tribunal Garda Keogh said that while he received an award from Irish Water Safety, no acknowledgement for exceptional police work was granted by Garda management.

"Sergeant Monaghan applied for commendations for the whole unit. Nobody received any commendations," said Garda Keogh in his statement.

Garda Keogh told Judge Ryan: "Another guard grabbed me from behind because I would've ended up going down with her.

"There was no commendation for any of us in the unit - it was a real team effort with gardaí and the ambulance team were there, as well.

"If I wasn't a whistleblower then I'd have gotten a commendation and nobody in my unit got one because then they would have had to have given it to me."

Judge Ryan asked if Garda Keogh found it "sinister or significant" that there was no commendation and was told: "Yes, normally we'd have gotten a commendation," adding that he had "gotten them for less."

Garda Keogh, however, did receive an award from IWS and for which he and six others were nominated by Superintendent Patrick Murray.

In his statement, Supt Murray said: "This was the second occasion on which I nominated members from Athlone for recognition... There was no ulterior motive for nominating Garda Keogh for this award."

Sgt Monaghan, in his statement, however, stated that he nominated all members present for consideration for the IWS Award to Supt Murray. He rejected "the assertion made by Garda Keogh that he was denied a commendation for this incident and that he single-handedly pulled the female from the water, as this was a group effort".

Garda Keogh told the tribunal of two other occasions where he feels he was denied commendations.

Garda Keogh came to the assistance of an elderly taxi driver who had been stabbed in Athlone in the early hours of 4 August, 2015.

He was part of an investigation that led to the successful conviction of what he described as "a serious incident" but on 8 August, 2015, noticed that his name had been removed from the Pulse entry recording the investigation.

Sgt Keogh had been first entered as the 'investigating Garda'.

"I've no issue with being changed from 'investigating Garda' to 'assisting Garda' because the detective branch would take it up but to be completely removed; I've never seen that before."

Several gardaí received commendations for being part of a successful investigating team.

Sgt Monaghan has stated: "Garda Keogh's name was apparently removed from Pulse  but I do not know why his name was removed or who did this."

A third incident involved the detection of a burglar at an Athlone bakery on 28 October, 2014.

Garda Keogh and a colleague arrived on the scene to find broken glass and searched the premises.

Garda Keogh found a male trying to "blend in" with the coat-rack and arrested him.

"The Chief Superintendent in Mullingar would be monitoring everything on Pulse. The norm would be that they would send out a commendation for good police work.

"I've gotten it for less. In 2013, I got a a commendation from the same Chief Super - I've gotten a lot of commendations over the years - but from 8 May, 2014 (when Garda Keogh made his protected disclosure), my commendation days were over and over for anyone working with me."

Supt Murray has stated: "A meticulous investigation was carried out into both crimes... I was not aware of Garda Keogh's involvement in either of those crimes."

Garda Keogh continues his evidence on Monday.

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