Áine Ryan and Anton McNulty
THE SENIOR garda at the centre of the Corrib protest rape-tape debacle is on certified sick leave and may not be interviewed by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) this year, The Mayo News can exclusively reveal.
A defamation action, being taken by the same garda, against north Mayo fisherman, Pat O’Donnell was adjourned last week until December next after his counsel, Mr Patrick Murphy, told Judge Petria McDonnell that his client was ‘medically unfit to attend the hearing’, due to be heard today, May 10.
Mr Kieran Fitzgerald of the GSOC said yesterday that four of the five gardaí involved in the rape tape, inadvertently recorded after they had arrested two female protestors at Aughoose on Thursday, March 31 last, had been interviewed.
He confirmed the investigation, which was undertaken last month by the GSOC ‘in the public interest’ was ‘ongoing’ but would not comment on the case specifically or on any contacts made with the garda sergeant.
However, Mr Fitzgerald did say: “We do not put time limits on our investigations in the hope that all the relevant parties will be interviewed.”
Mr Fitzgerald declined to comment on whether he had been formally notified about the garda’s medical condition or whether this precluded him from being interviewed by the GSOC at the moment.
When contacted by The Mayo News, a spokesman for the Garda Press Office also declined to comment. He said the issue was in the domain of Human Resources (HR) and therefore an internal matter. However, The Mayo News understands the senior garda is on sick leave and may not return to work for some time. It has also emerged that two of the five gardaí involved in the debacle have returned to full duties.
IN the defamation proceedings, the garda sergeant is seeking damages for slander and personal injury arising from words allegedly spoken by Porturlin fisherman, Pat O’Donnell, known locally as The Chief.
Mr Alan Gannon, Counsel for Mr O’Donnell, said yesterday that he had been aware there was an application for an adjournment by the plaintiff.
“Our team assumed it was for discovery of documents – a garda tape recorded around the time of the alleged defamation incident – but it transpired that it was in respect of a medical condition. I will be writing for any evidence of this incapacity,” Mr Gannon said.
After Judge Petria McDonnell read the sergeant’s medical report, at a Circuit Court sitting in Castlebar last week, she agreed to adjourn the hearing until December 6 next.
The case was first adjourned in March last when Judge Raymond Groarke agreed to step down after an application by Mr O’Donnell’s legal representatives. In a previous case in February 2010, Judge Groarke sentenced Mr O’Donnell to seven months imprisonment when he appeared before him in Castlebar Circuit Court. During the course of his sentencing, Judge Groarke called Mr O’Donnell a ‘bully’ and a ‘thug’. These comments were subsequently reported in both the local and national media.
In March, Mr Leo Mulrooney, BL for Mr O’Donnell, successfully argued that a reasonable person would feel the case would not be fairly decided.