Garda Superintendent tells tribunal he did not conspire against sergeant at Irish Open

The tribunal is investigating the claims made by former Garda Sgt Paul Barry, formerly of Mitchelstown Garda Station in Co Cork, who made a 2012 complaint that the proper investigation of a child sexual assault allegation was prevented by Supt Michael Comyns, who he says also bullied and harassed him
Garda Superintendent tells tribunal he did not conspire against sergeant at Irish Open

Paul Neilan

A retired Garda superintendent has told the Disclosures Tribunal that he could not have conspired with other senior gardaí to place a sergeant in the same room as a superior officer - a situation the sergeant said made him "physically sick" - during policing of the Irish Open.

On Friday at the tribunal, Supt John Quilter said he booked a family holiday in December 2013, which was a month before the location of the golf tournament was announced and that he could not theerfore have conspired to put the former sergeant in "harm's way".

The tribunal is investigating the claims made by former Garda Sgt Paul Barry, formerly of Mitchelstown Garda Station in Co Cork, who made a 2012 complaint that the proper investigation of a child sexual assault allegation was prevented by Supt Michael Comyns, who he says also bullied and harassed him. The Director of Public Prosecutions later directed there be no prosecution of the child sex assault allegation.

The former sergeant claims the investigation found that one of the alleged suspects was connected to two senior gardaí, former Supt John Quilter and then Chief Supt Anthony Quilter, the tribunal has also heard. After a criminal investigation, the DPP directed in November 2015 there be no prosecution relating to Sgt Barry's claim that Supt Comyns had perverted the course of justice, due to a lack of evidence.

2014 Irish Open

The tribunal has heard that Supt Comyns, who denies allegations of bullying and targeting Mr Barry, has described the complaints as "unfounded and vexatious". After an internal Garda investigation, the bullying and harassment complaints were not upheld by investigators.

Mr Barry has told the tribunal that he began his retirement process after being "physically sick" at the 2014 Irish Open tournament due to the presence of Supt Comyns at a pre-event briefing attended by up to 100 gardaí.

Mr Barry reported being unfit for duty on August 6, 2012, due to work-related stress and alleged bullying. Mr Barry says he was out sick for 239 days in total. He has told the tribunal that he returned to work on March 29, 2013, after financial concerns forced him to do so but a medical certificate recommended that he not come in contact with Supt Comyns or attend the district headquarters in Fermoy where Supt Comyns was based.

In his statement to the tribunal, Mr Barry states: "I believe I was targeted for this duty by both Supt Quilter and Supt Comyns, as both would have been aware I did not want to have any contact with Supt Comyns. I became physically sick and the whole event caused me a lot of stress. Had I refused to attend this golf duty, it would have given them a reason to transfer me. I believe Supt Quilter deliberately took leave so that I would have to deal with Supt Comyns."

Mr Barry says he submitted his retirement application immediately after the golf duty as "I didn't ever want to go through this again".

Mr Barry has told Diarmuid McGuinness SC, for the tribunal, that he was rostered to work at the tournament and that Supt Quilter had been in charge of Garda planning for the event, assisted by Inspector Eoghan Healy. Mr Barry was detailed for two days' duty between Barrystown roundabout and Carrigtwohill Village, reporting to Inspector Eoghan Healy.

Annual leave

However, in the run-up to the event, Supt Quilter took annual leave and Supt Comyns was designated to take over by Chief Supt Gerard Dillane. Mr Barry says he was required to attend the Garda briefing held by Supt Comyns, putting both men in the same room.

Mr McGuinness asked Mr Barry if his presence in the same room as Supt Comyns for the meeting breached the medical advice issued by the CMO and his GP. "Yes, because it made me physically sick," said Mr Barry.

On Friday, Supt John Quilter told Sinead McGrath BL, for the tribunal, that he met with Mr Barry before the tournament and had taken his concerns regarding coming in contact with Supt Comyns. Supt Quilter designated Insp Healy to supervise Mr Barry on the traffic operation while Supt Comyns would be inside the Garda cordon around the course.

Supt Quilter said that he had organised cover at superintendent level from December of 2013 but that a garden festival in Mallow meant that Supt Comyns was the only available superintendent. He said that around 100 or 120 gardaí were involved in policing the Fota Island event and that Garda members were not selected individually but by unit.

Supt Quilter said that he was aware of an issue regarding Mr Barry not attending Fermoy Garda Station but had no knowledge of the contents of the medical certificate. However, he said he took Mr Barry's concerns on board regarding contact with Supt Comyns.

Chief Supt Dillane, who has concluded his evidence, and who denies any targeting of Mr Barry, has told the tribunal that was "taken aback" by the conditions of the medical certificate which he had "never seen in 34 years".

Chief Supt Dillane has told the tribunal that the medical cert "meant that Sgt Barry was fit to return to work but could not attend his place of work and it also meant that Fermoy Garda Station was an unsafe place of work".

He said he had "major issues" with the content of the certificate and was concerned it could "start a trend".

The tribunal will resume its hearings into Mr Barry's complaints on June 14th.

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