Shatter says he has confidence in GSOC

Callinan states ‘no member of Garda’ involved in surveillance Ombudsman’s offices

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan with Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter at Templemore Garda College during the 50th anniversary celebrations today. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan with Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter at Templemore Garda College during the 50th anniversary celebrations today. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Fri, Feb 14, 2014, 15:56

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has moved to address his failure last night to back Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission chairman Simon O’Brien when asked to do so.

He has said today he has confidence in GSOC as an organisation and in the three commissioners that lead the organisation, one of whom is Mr O’Brien.

“I have confidence in GSOC, I have confidence in the GSOC commission,” he said at an event in the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary.

“I’m not going to differentiate between individual members because it’s the commission and they make decisions collective. They perform as a commission; they don’t perform on an individual basis.”

He added the organisation was now investigating the leaking of a private report on bugging compiled for it last year by security experts from the UK and was hopeful the outcome of that may bring an end to the controversy.

The security report outlined three examples that the security experts interpreted as evidence the GSOC was under surveillance, including telephone lines and WiFi being compromised.

Mr Shatter said members of the commission had been “disturbed” that the report had been leaked and details had emerged in the Sunday Times. “It’s of crucial importance that information is maintained on a confidential basis.

It’s important that there’s public trust and confidence in GSOC. They are currently investigating the matter. I think it’s appropriate that they conduct their internal investigation and I hope it will produce a satisfactory outcome.”

However, he ruled out an independent inquiry or a Garda investigation being established to conclusively determine if GSOC had been placed under surveillance.

He said that would only serve to undermine the inquiry that had already been undertaken by the commission.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said he was concerned at the way GSOC had handled such sensitive information. “Absolutely, I am concerned,” he said in Templemore.

“I am concerned about leaks in my own organisation as well and it is something I have been speaking to my own membership about. “It is a given that in any organisation like An Garda Siochana or the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission where you are dealing with highly sensitive personal details of not alone garda members but members of the criminal fraternity we are obliged under statute to investigate, that the utmost care has to be taken in preserving the integrity of that information.

“I think the pigeon has come home to roost to a certain degree here because all of the issues and all of the guarantees that we were seeking to secure in the new protocol arrangement are the very issues that come very much front and centre in the context of what has been happening in recent days. I am very, very concerned about confidential information leaking into the public domain.”

Mr Callinan also said he was “very, very satisfied that no member of An Garda Siochana was involved in surveillance of any kind in relation to either premises or the members of staff,” he said.

Chairman of the Gsoc, former Met Police commander Simon O’Brien, said he suspects his offices in central Dublin have been bugged but cannot prove it.

The protocols Commissioner Callinan referred to centre on GSOC being given access to the Garda’s PULSE computerised data base system. The commission believes it has been frustrated by the Garda in accessing evidence central to some of its investigations into serious allegations of wrongdoing on the part of gardaí.

GSOC has long campaign for unfettered access to PULSE. Mr Shatter refused the agency’s request last year but in recent weeks had changed his view. He said GSOC would be permitted access to PULSE for its investigation into the termination of penalty points by gardaí.

Mr Shatter will be questioned by the Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions on Wednesday.

Earlier today the chairman of that committee Sinn Féin TD Padraig MacLochlainn, said the minister’s account of the suspected surveillance differed considerably from a report he was given on the security concerns.

GSOC has long campaign for unfettered access to PULSE. Mr Shatter refused the agency’s request last year but in recent weeks had changed his view. He said GSOC would be permitted access to PULSE for its investigation into the termination of penalty points by gardaí.

Just last week he said he was extending that access to all investigations carried out by GSOC “from now on”.