Gardaí kept jobs despite garda intelligence linking them to organised crime

An internal garda intelligence file named three Athlone gardaí suspected of involvement in the midlands drug trade.

County Westmeath ex-garda George Garvey and ex-detective Tom Higgins both kept their jobs despite intelligence linking them to organised crime in the midlands. 

Garda George Garvey

On December 18, 2014, detective superintendent Cliona Richardson, head of the Garda National Intelligence Unit (GNIU), sent an intelligence report to her superior. 

This report outlined serious allegations against garda George Garvey, as well as his colleague Tom Higgins and another detective who cannot be named for legal reasons. 

“A series of reports from a single strand of intelligence have indicated criminal activity by named members of An Garda Síochána stationed within the eastern region,” wrote Richardson in her report titled “Intelligence reporting suggesting criminal activity by members of An Garda Síochána”.

Richardson wrote that the intelligence was “not corroborated and should not form the sole basis for taking executive action (arrests/searches)”.

She wrote of allegations of criminality.

A member of the public, Richardson wrote, “claims garda George Garvey planted drugs in his partner's car and that it has ruined his… life”. This person “claims to have filed a complaint with the Garda Ombudsman over this”.

Richardson was referring to a December 2012 heroin seizure the DPP didn’t prosecute after it was alleged the drugs were planted on Garvey’s orders

This was not the first time that Garvey had been accused of involvement in the drug trade.

A September 2010 garda internal report, seen by The Ditch, written by Athlone-based sergeant Andrew Haran claimed Garvey had “tipped-off” drug dealers in the midlands town and was in a relationship with a suspected heroin dealer with a number of criminal convictions. No action was taken against Garvey.

Garvey was eventually suspended in October 2015 after a new team of garda investigators retrieved phone records that linked him to the same alleged drug-dealing woman with whom he was claimed to be in a relationship. 

A garda internal inquiry later concluded that Garvey was in a relationship with the Athlone woman, which led to him “compromising planned searches and raids”, according to a 2016 report in the Sunday Times which didn’t name him. 

In 2019 assistant garda commissioner Anne Marie McMahon recommended Garvey face a disciplinary board of inquiry to examine one of eight allegations of wrongdoing against him.

Assistant commissioner David Sheahan later overruled her recommendation and decided against the establishment of a board of inquiry because of flaws he claimed to have found in the initial internal disciplinary investigation. Garvey’s suspension was lifted in summer 2019 as a result of this decision.

It is understood that Garvey remained a member of An Garda Síochána until his retirement in 2021.

Detective garda Tom Higgins

Richardson also alleged in her report that detective garda Tom Higgins had “looked after” a major drug dealer in Athlone.

A local man, wrote Richardson, “is one of the biggest drug dealers in Athlone. In the past he has supplied cocaine to garda Tom Higgins”. 

“Higgins owed money… for drugs” and this dealer “wanted payment. Higgins refused to pay stating that he wouldn't pay as he always looked after” this dealer, who “soon after… got a tip off that his home was to be searched… Higgins may have arranged this search to teach” the dealer “a lesson”, reads the report.

Higgins continued serving as a detective garda in Athlone station till his resignation last year. 

After speaking to The Ditch by phone yesterday for more than five minutes about his time as a garda in Athlone, The Ditch put extracts of the report to Higgins and asked for his response. 

The line went dead. 

The December 2014 intelligence report also named another detective garda accused of drug dealing, who cannot be identified for legal reasons. The detective was also based in Athlone and retired from An Garda Síochána in the past decade. 

It is alleged in the report that he sold cocaine and assaulted a teenage girl with whom he was in a relationship.

This garda “was offering cocaine for sale. He wanted €7,000 for an unknown quantity but which he stated was worth a lot more than €7,000”. This garda “had a volatile relationship” with a local teenager. He “gave her a beating one night at a hotel in Mullingar”, it is claimed in the intelligence report. 

The Ditch contacted George Garvey for comment but he didn’t respond to this request. 

A spokesperson for the garda press office said the force “does not comment on named individuals including named gardaí or former gardaí who are now private citizens”.

“The matters you are enquiring about were subject to criminal investigations and/or internal garda disciplinary investigations,” added the spokesperson, continuing, “In addition, Justice Ryan (Disclosures Tribunal) found that the garda’s allegations of criminal activity against gardaí were taken seriously by the An Garda Síochána and were investigated competently and with integrity.”

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors