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24/09/2021

Army reservist challenges decision to dismiss him on grounds that he is a risk to national security

Courts

Army reservist challenges decision to dismiss him on grounds that he is a risk to national security

A member of the Reserve Defence Forces has brought a High Court challenge against the decision to dismiss him on the grounds that he is a risk to national security.

The action has been brought by marketing executive Kealan Harrington, who strongly denies being a risk to national security.

He believes that his dismissal is linked to his role as public spokesperson for the family of Aaron Brady, the man convicted and jailed last year for the murder of Garda Adrian Donoghue.

The High Court heard on Monday that Mr Harrington joined the Reserve Defence Forces (RDF) in 2014. A year later he joined the Permanent Defence Forces, but left shortly afterwards.

In 2019 he re-enlisted in the RDF, and was subject to security vetting and security analysis.

He claims that last April following a meeting with three officers he was told he was being discharged as his services were no longer required and that he was a security risk to the State

He claims that despite making a request to be furnished with information concerning the reasons for his discharge, nothing has been provided to him.

He claims that his discharge is unlawful and was made in breach of natural and constitutional justice.

Mr Harrington from Ballintemple, Co Cork also claims the manner of his discharge contravenes Defence Force Regulations. He claims he was given no notice of the fact he was being discharged.

At the meeting with his superiors in April he claims that was denied the chance to make his case, and has been denied a fair hearing, and he has been dismissed without any proper agreed process whatsoever.

His appeal against the decision was also dismissed.

In judicial review proceedings against the Minister for Defence, Ireland and the Attorney General Mr Harrington seeks an order quashing the decision, made effective on May 17th last, to discharge him from the Reserve Defence Forces.

Represented by David Geoghegan Bl, Mr Harrington also seeks an order remitting the purported discharge to the Minister to be determined in law and in accordance with regulations applicable to members of the Reserve Defence Forces. 

Counsel said Mr Harrington was never been told in advance what the April meeting was about, nor has he ever been presented with the reasons or grounds for asserting that he is a security risk to the state.

Counsel said that following an exchange of correspondence between Mr Harrington's solicitors and the Defence Forces his client was informed that the decision to dismiss him arose out of an incident at the gate of Collins Barracks, Cork last October.

He said that when passing the gate, he asked the guard on duty when the gym and training sessions, halted due to Covid-19 restrictions would re-start.

He said he was asked for his military ID, but did not have any. He was kept there until an Officer attended and asked him why he was attempting to gain access.

Counsel said his client believes that incident arose due to 'a misunderstanding.'

Counsel said Mr Harrington was subsequently brought in for a meeting with the Military Police over the incident.

Mr Harrington said he was not initially told why the meeting was called, but claims he was eventually told that it was part of a disciplinary process.

Counsel said that arising out the incident at the gate his client was wrongly accused of trying to impersonate an officer.

Mr Harrington filed a complaint over that incident, which he says was dismissed by a superior officer.

Counsel said his client believes that Mr Harrington's decision to act as a spokesperson for the family of convicted murderer Aaron Brady is the reason for his discharge from the RDF.

Mr Harrington said that following an approach by a friend he is developing an online campaign to help the Brady family. They claim that  Brady, who is appealing his conviction, is innocent of Garda Donohoe's murder.

His involvement in this campaign was never mentioned to him by the Defence Forces. Mr Harrington feels it may have influenced the decision to dismiss him as a security risk.

The matter came before Mr Justice Charles Meenan, who on an ex-parte basis, directed that the application for permission to bring the challenge be made on notice to the respondents.

The matter will return before the Court in November.

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