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Boozed-up Pharmacist found six times over drink-drive limit


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Keenan was struck off the pharmacist register in the Republic back in 2015

Keenan was struck off the pharmacist register in the Republic back in 2015

Keenan was struck off the pharmacist register in the Republic back in 2015

This is the shamed pharmacist who made new legal history - after he was found to be SIX times over the drink-drive limit.

Michael Keenan was so drunk behind the wheel he tried to unlock his door by repeatedly pushing the buttons on the car radio.

Drink driving kills hundreds of people each year and leaves thousands more injured, and Keenan is lucky nobody was injured in this case as it's understood he was zig-zagging all over a country road.

Keenan - dumped as a pharmacist in 2015 after 17,000 pills went missing - was a staggering six times over the drink-drive limit, leading a judge to comment it was the highest reading he'd ever come across in Ulster.

The judge said it was actually verging on alcohol poisoning levels.

We searched our archives and found just a couple of boozed-up drivers who were six times over the limit.

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Michael Keenan talks to Steven Moore

Michael Keenan talks to Steven Moore

Michael Keenan talks to Steven Moore

Keenan, of Fergort Road, Keady, Co. Armagh, was banned from driving for three years as it was the second time he'd been guilty of the same offence in ten years.

Police stopped him on April 12 driving home after they'd received a report of a car being driven erratically along the Castleblayney Road in Keady.

When police arrived they found Keenan had driven his van off the verge and was half on, half off the road with him slumped at the wheel.

Armagh Magistrates Court heard how, as the 46-year-old tried to get out of the car, he repeatedly pressed buttons on his car radio - believing them to be the lock for the doors.

When confronted at his home by the Sunday World this week he said he didn't wish to make a comment.

However, he confirmed he "deeply regretted" the incident adding: "It was a bad one, a really bad one."

It's not the first time Mr Keenan has been 'out of tune' with the authorities.

In 2015, he was struck off the pharmacist register in Ireland after an investigation found he was responsible for the disappearance of more than 17,000 benzodiazepine pills.

Drugs

Keenan became the first pharmacist to be struck off the register since new legislation in 2007 allowed for fitness-to-practise inquiries to be held in public.

He'd been working for a family-run pharmacy in Cavan town at the time when the owner filed a complaint to the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) when he became concerned.

He did not contest the charges against him at a hearing of the PSI which went to the High Court on August 8, 2012, and secured the suspension of Keenan before launching an investigation.

Investigators examined records, invoices and registers at the pharmacy to identify discrepancies between what drugs were being received and dispensed by the pharmacy.

They found that during a nine-month period from October 2011, 17,016 pills were unaccounted for. Of these, 12,161 were benzodiazepines, while the remaining 4,855 were described as "benzo-like agents".

This week Michael Keenan - who is trying to forge a new career as a painter and decorator - found himself in trouble again after his shocking drink-drive incident.

He pleaded guilty to driving with excess alcohol at Armagh Magistrates Court, sitting at Newry, via videolink from his solicitor's office.

After several failed attempts of trying to unlock the car through the buttons on the radio, police were able to gain access eventually and took the keys from the ignition.

The court was told police observed that the defendant was highly intoxicated, with slurred speech and he had trouble standing.

A preliminary breath test at the roadside resulted in a fail, with a subsequent evidential test giving a reading of 301 mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood - over six times the legal limit.

A defence barrister told the hearing: "It is accepted this is a very high reading. He instructs that he had been suffering a toothache and had taken painkillers.

"He did comply with police. He is a pharmacist but is not employed at present and had been working as a painter and decorator."

There was no mention of him being struck off the pharmacist register.

He continued: "This was a plea at an early opportunity, and he knows the inevitable outcome of today as he has a previous entry in the last 10 years."

District Judge Eamonn King asked if alcohol was a "feature" in Keenan's life.

The defence barrister stated: "It would appear to be, especially when he is out of employment."

The judge said: "This is the highest reading that I have ever seen in this court. He is into the alcohol poisoning bracket."

Keenan was disqualified from driving for three years and was ordered to pay a fine of £350, along with the offender's levy of £15.

Keenan worked at the Valu Plus pharmacy in Cavan town for over two years.

Sources who knew him then told the Sunday World he was a "really nice guy".

Sedatives

"I haven't seen Michael in a few years so it's sad to see he was drink-driving like this," said a former friend.

"Michael is actually a really nice guy but he has his demons. It's a real shame."

The benzodiazepines drugs that went missing while he was working at the pharmacy are sedatives that are prescribed to reduce anxiety or stress, encourage sleep or to relax muscles.

They are sometimes used to ease the "comedown" from stimulant drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine.

Keenan was additionally found guilty of professional misconduct for his failure to keep a proper record or register in relation to the dispensing of methadone, which is primarily used to combat heroin addiction.

He was also found guilty of the lesser charge of poor professional performance for his failure to comply with standard operating procedures.

Ronan Quirke, the chair of the PSI professional conduct committee, said that "in the interest of public safety and having regard to the gravity of professional misconduct", it was directing Keenan's registration be cancelled.