Calls for all-party committee to speak to Cooke directly

Government accused of using Cooke report to ‘put this issue to bed regardless of what questions remain unanswered’

Simon O’Brien, chairman of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission: ‘There is still an outstanding anomaly and in the words of the judge, as he says in these rather febrile areas, it’s difficult to know whether that could be in relation to unlawful intrusion.’ Photograph: Eric Luke

Simon O’Brien, chairman of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission: ‘There is still an outstanding anomaly and in the words of the judge, as he says in these rather febrile areas, it’s difficult to know whether that could be in relation to unlawful intrusion.’ Photograph: Eric Luke

Thu, Jun 12, 2014, 01:27

The integrity of the inquiry into possible bugging at the offices of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission is coming under closer scrutiny, with both the Opposition and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) pushing for the process to be examined.

Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on justice, Niall Collins TD, last night said he wanted the Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Defence to become involved and to invite Mr Justice John Cooke, who carried out the inquiry, to appear before it.

“The Government has sought to control this controversy from the beginning by undermining the independence of GSOC and dismissing public concern every step of the way,” he said.

“It is clear now that the Government wants to use the Cooke report to put this issue to bed regardless of what questions remain unanswered,” Mr Collins added.

“I believe that rather than rely on Government spin, we need to give the all-party justice committee an opportunity to speak to Mr Justice Cooke directly.”

Earlier yesterday, ICCL director Mark Kelly said Mr Justice Cooke was constrained by the terms of reference set out for him by Government.

He said the retired judge found “what it seems to have been preordained that he would find” – namely that it was impossible to rule out categorically all possibility of covert surveillance.

Opportunity to explain

He said if Mr Justice Cooke appeared before the justice committee, he would be afforded the opportunity to explain the constraints that prevented him from examining logs of Garda and Defence Forces surveillance equipment and interviewing personnel from both organisations.

If the GSOC had been bugged, the Garda and Defence Forces would be regarded as two of a very small number of organisations with the equipment and expertise necessary for such surveillance.

Interim Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan welcomed the Cooke report’s finding that no evidence was found to support the proposition that “actual surveillance” took place.

However, she conceded a more constructive relationship between the Garda and the GSOC was needed.

“The relationship does continue to improve and An Garda Síochána is committed to building on that positive engagement with GSOC so as to ensure that there is an independent, objective and effective relationship between us,” Ms O’Sullivan said.

A good working relationship between both bodies was vital if the public’s trust in policing in Ireland was to be maintained.