A retired Garda sergeant who claimed a group of senior Garda officers conspired against him and made efforts to discredit or target him has not had his allegations upheld. The Disclosures Tribunal has found none of the officers named, across a number of different complaints and protected disclosures, had targeted former Garda sergeant Paul Barry in any way.
He had alleged efforts to transfer him to another station represented targeting as did, he claimed, the refusal to grant his applications for annual leave at times. He further alleged two senior officers had conspired so that one of them, with whom Mr Barry had especially poor relations, would be present and on duty on the same day at the Irish Open golf championship at Fota Island, Cork, in 2014.
Last May the tribunal was told Mr Barry was being targeted, harassed, isolated and discredited by his superiors by October 2012, when he made a bullying complaint and then made protected disclosures while he was working at Mitchelstown station, Co Cork.
Mr Barry was attested as a garda in October 1986 and was stationed at Rathmines Garda station for 14 years. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in December 1999 and went on to serve in Mitchelstown for 16½ years until his retirement in June 2016.
Last July at Dublin Castle, tribunal chairman Mr Justice Seán Ryan heard the final oral submissions in the tribunal’s investigation into the claims of Mr Barry. It has now issued its report containing the results of its investigations. While it concluded it was understandable Mr Barry sometimes believed the worst in a very poor working atmosphere, it did not uphold his complaints.
The first allegations were made in October 2012 when, the tribunal, said Mr Barry had made “nine allegations of bullying and harassment” against Supt Michael Comyns, his district officer.
“The final allegation accused the superintendent of wrongdoing by unlawfully interfering in the criminal investigation into an alleged case of sexual assault reported to Mitchelstown Garda station in February 2012,” the tribunal said. It its report into Mr Barry’s allegations, the tribunal said investigating that specific allegation against Mr Comyns was not within its remit. However, it noted the criminal investigation into the sexual assault had been completed and file had been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, which directed no prosecution should take place.
In August 2012, Mr Comyns issued Mr Barry with a warning over being 20 minutes late for duty. Five days later, Mr Barry began a period of sick leave, citing work-related stress. While off sick he indicated to the Garda authorities he wished to make a complaint under the Garda Síochána bullying and harassment policy.
The Garda system recorded Mr Barry as being absent due to “illness: flu/virus” from the period of August 6th, 2012, to March 29th, 2013. That meant his pay was reduced by a sixth as his absence was not classified as being work-related. Mr Barry felt he was being “deliberately targeted” by management to “punish me financially”.
However, the tribunal concluded the two officers he accused in this regard had no role in determining how his illness and absence from work was classified. It also concluded Supt Comyns and Chief Supt Gerard Dillane had not targeted Mr Barry by instructing a Garda inspector to make checks into the background of the medical certificate.
That certificate was produced by Mr Barry on his return to work after being ill and stipulated he was fit to work as long as he did not have to attend at Fermoy station and as long as he did not have to have any contact with Supt Comyns, his superior officer.
The tribunal also rejected another allegation of “targeting” by Mr Barry arising from an instruction issued to him by Chief Supt Dillane that a comprehensive report must be prepared and submitted about a fatal house fire in April 2013.The tribunal described the request as “a relatively routine issue arising in a disciplined police force” with no suggestion of targeting.
Another allegation by Mr Barry stated Supt Comyns sought to “target or discredit” him by refusing to grant him annual leave in May 2013 because he had made a protected disclosure. The tribunal said Mr Barry was told he could take the leave as long as another sergeant could cover for him. The tribunal notes Mr Barry “went on leave anyway, which makes his complaint about refusal of leave puzzling to say the least”.
Mr Barry also accused Supt John Quilter and Chief Supt Dillane of targeting or discrediting him over his protected disclosures by ensuring he, Mr Barry, would be on duty with Supt Comyns a the Irish Open golf championship at Fota Island. The tribunal noted the fact Supt Comyns was on duty did not result from any conspiracy or targeting. The fact the superintendent also briefed a large group of Garda members, including Mr Barry, before the event was not a surprise considering how policing worked at major events.
“It is improbable to the point of being incredible that the officers concerned would have conspired to target Sgt Barry in order to expose him to the mere presence of Supt Comyns for short briefing periods on two days in the presence of some 100 or more members of the force,” the tribunal said.
At one point, in October 2012, Mr Barry made a complaint of bullying and harassment. The inquiry into those complaints, which were many, was conducted by Chief Supt Catherine Kehoe. Mr Barry then lodged a complaint about her, alleging she was trying to “target or discredit” him by taking so long to complete the inquiry. The tribunal said while the inquiry had taken more than 3½ years it had been a very complex inquiry and that those carrying it out had other duties.