‘Nobody knew he was over in the Ukraine fighting. He went on annual leave and simply didn’t come back’
Sources say colleagues of Mountjoy Prison officer Brian Meagher were stunned by his appearance on RTE’s Prime Time after failing to show up for work for months.
“Nobody knew he was over in the Ukraine fighting,” a source told the Sunday World.
“He went on annual leave and simply didn’t come back.”
It’s understood Mr. Meagher had initially gone on annual leave in June before failing to return to work after his holiday leave expired.
It’s further understood efforts to contact him to see what was going on with him were unsuccessful.
Sources say the situation will now have to be reviewed by Brian’s employer, the Irish Prison Service, to establish whether his action constitute a breach of contract.
“He is facing possible disciplinary action and possible dismissal as a result of his actions,” a source said.
“There will understandably be huge sympathy for his situation but you cannot simply stop coming into work.”
Contacted yesterday the Irish Prison Service said: “The IPS cannot comment on issues relating to individual staff members.”
Appearing on Prime Time this week, Brian, a former Irish Defence Forces soldier, revealed he had been shot and hit by shrapnel, which lodged in his heart, spine and legs, during the victorious offensive by the Ukrainian army in their rout of the Russians last week.
Mr. Meagher said he fought with the foreign legion supporting the breakthrough offensive – on the first day of the push through the eastern front.
"We were deployed 10 days before the actual offensive started," he said, noting that their job was to scope out routes to some of the villages.
"We weren't going in as part of the first wave.
"That was going to be mechanised infantry.
"Their job was to smash through the Russian lines and just keep driving.
"And our job was to kind of mop up and to protect the 1.5mm self-propelled artillery guns."
But the unit made more progress than expected, he said.
"We ended up in enemy territory on day one – we shouldn't have been there."
Most of the Russian forces had fled, but one unit remained and it ambushed a unit from the foreign legion, including Brian's.
"I'm standing in an open-back truck, and, as this tank turned around, there was just explosions," he said.
After realising he had been hit, Brian resigned himself to the worst
"As soon as it happened, I hit the ground and I jumped up because I thought I was fine.
"My mind didn’t register with my body.
"So, I started to run as I could see smoke coming from the explosion."
But, as he stated to run, he looked at his gloves and started to feel warm.
For a split second, he said, he thought he had not been hurt.
And then he took a few more steps and realised that he had been injured.
"I later found out then that I was hit twice in the heart [with shrapnel] and I got one into my spine.
"And I had gotten one somewhere over in my lung area," he said.
"Fluid was filling up my lungs, because I was struggling to breathe.
"It was like I was slowly drowning. And I hadn't realised I had been shot at that time."
Mr. Meagher said he had resigned himself to the worst and pulled his protective clothing off.
"It just got so bad that I said 'right, if I'm going to die, I'm going to die comfortably.”
The ambush team were forced to flee the town.
They left around 10 casualties behind him, including a man who was an American Green Beret for 20 years.
"He's missing. So, they are combing the morgues looking for him," Brian said.
Brian, along with a number of his wounded colleagues, was taken to an undisclosed hospital in Ukraine where he was operated on.
He was told by his doctors that he was lucky to survive.
"I still have two pieces of shrapnel in my heart. They’re still there. I have two pieces in my spine, but it went into my bone bit so I was lucky," he said.
"And, all down my leg, there is shrapnel and then there is the gunshot that hit my forearm. I’ll probably lose two fingers."
Asked how he had ended up leaving Ratoath to fight in the Ukraine, Mr. Meagher said: "I spent 15 years in the Irish army.
"I joined when I was 17 and I left the army around 2018. This is where the roles have led me."
He told Prime Time that he was watching the news, and because of his background, he felt compelled to fight.
The deaths of civilians in the town of Bucha also had an impact.
"They needed soldiers. So I just decided to go. I knew no one here. I just bought all the equipment, and I came over."
Asked how his wife and two children felt about his decision, he responded: "I told them I was going to train people, which I ended up doing. But I never said fighting."
Brian also said his only regret is that he wishes he could have done more.
"I regret that I got hit so quickly in the offensive. I just wanted to do more. I couldn't, so that's probably my only regret," he said.
"I'm very glad I came here. I know if Ireland was invaded, I would want Europeans and foreign men to come and help us fight. So that's all, that's all I did."
Doctors have warned Brian that his recovery will be slow.
His next battle, after his recovery, will be to save his job, if he so chooses, when he gets home.