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Garda whistleblower learned yesterday her role is ‘gone’

The Workplace Relations Commission continued its hearing into claims by garda whistleblower Lois West this afternoon in her absence after hearing that she had taken ill.

Ms West had already left the hearing room when her legal team told the tribunal they were unable to take instruction because their client was unwell as a result of the stress of the proceedings.

“Her husband expressed very serious concerns about his wife,” said her barrister, David Byrnes BL.

“I am sorry to hear she’s not feeling well about this matter. She is forefront in my mind in this case,” said adjudicator Roger McGrath.

However, the complainant side objected to finishing the hearing at 5.30pm as originally planned if it meant the case might have to proceed beyond tomorrow.

Earlier, Ms West’s barrister said his client only learned late yesterday evening while a senior garda executive was testifying to the WRC that her role in the force’s analytics service is “gone”.

“To find out yesterday that that deputy role has been gone a year and a half, two years, what would you say?” counsel for Lois West asked her treating psychiatrist today.

“I think that must be shocking,” witness Dr Elizabeth Cryan said.

Ms West has complained under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and the Payment of Wages Act 1991 against the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, the Government, and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Ms West, who was deputy head of the Garda Siochana Analysis Service (GSAS) at assistant principal grade prior to taking extended sick leave, says her career has been “stymied” since she testified to the Oireachtas about errors in the recording of official homicide data six years ago and that the force mishandled her complaint about bullying and sexual harassment by a senior official in Garda Headquarters.

The tribunal sat until unusually late yesterday evening to accommodate the evidence of garda chief information officer Andrew O’Sullivan.

It is again continuing the hearing late this evening for the evidence of the force’s HR director Edmund O’Reilly.

Today marks six years to the day since Ms West and her colleague, Laura Galligan, testified to the Oireachtas about errors in garda homicide data.

Earlier, Ms West’s treating consultant psychiatrist, Dr Elizabeth Cryan, gave evidence that Ms West had “a severe adjustment disorder”.

The complainant “would meet the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD” except that there was no direct exposure to death, serious injury or sexual violence – the alleged sexual harassment Ms West had referred to falling short of that diagnostic standard, she said.

Ms West’s physical symptoms were linked to “a high level of stress and anxiety”, including tooth grinding, “very severe” migraines, cold sores, perioral dermatitis, muscle tension and sleeping difficulties, she said.

Asked by Mr Byrnes about Ms West’s ability to “think rationally” and be “reasoned” about what she perceived, Dr Cryan said Ms West is “completely rational, completely clear, an excellent detailed historian in relation to all aspects”.

“To find out yesterday in this forum that that deputy role has been gone a year and a half, two years, what would you say?” Mr Byrnes asked.

“I think that must be shocking because it must mean there is to be a formal diminution of her role in the organisation, because she would be going in at a lower point,” Dr Cryan said.

On the complainant’s one day back at work in February 2020, Dr Cryan said: “I think she more or less forced herself to go back for that day in February because she felt a certain desperation; that she was going to lose her career if she didn’t.”

“I don’t think she would have been really fit for work, but it was born of desperation,” Dr Cryan added.

Lorna Lynch SC, appeared for the State with Niall Fahy BL instructed by Joseph Dolan of the Chief State Solicitor’s Office. She put it to Dr Cryan in cross-examination that her report noted Ms West had been “very emotional and upset that she had to ‘apply for her own role’” when she learned her colleague Sarah Parsons advanced from an equivalent assistant principal grade, sharing the status of deputy head, to principal officer.

Counsel said the view expressed by Ms West that Ms Parsons had been “parachuted in” was based on her “perception” of process, but that Ms West didn’t know what the process had been.

“Ms West understood this woman had applied for a principal officer role in the Department of Justice. Why she thought she was parachuted in was because she was appointed to GSAS… I think it would be reasonable and not entirely paranoid,” Dr Cryan said.

“That’s based on your understanding of the facts,” Ms Lynch said.

“It’s also based on Ms West’s understanding,” Dr Cryan said.

This morning, Ms West’s GSAS colleague Laura Galligan, who testified to the Oireachtas with Ms West on errors in garda homicide data, said she “naively thought you might be commended for identifying something, but it was the complete opposite”.

Ms Galligan explained that she had identified issues with 41 cases after comparing the files of the Chief State Pathologist, where she had worked as a senior scientist, to Garda PULSE records. She said she had her methodology called “inherently weak” and “flawed” in a report to the Policing Authority into which neither she nor Ms West had any input.

She said a comment was made to her during an initial meeting of the homicide review team: “Sure you’re young, what would you know?”

She said the attitude shown by sworn members of the force working with civilian analysts on the issue was: “Run along, there’s nothing to see here.”

“It was very belittling behaviour, very intimidating,” she said.

“I am still a member of the Homicide Investigation Review Team now,” she said, adding that to this day her methodology is still the one used.

Proceedings at the Workplace Relations Commission are continuing into the late evening for the second time this week.

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