Taoiseach seeks clarity but rejects spy claim probe

Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors calls for commission chairman to quit

Simon O’Brien, chairman of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, leaving the meeting with the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, at the Department oif Justice yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Simon O’Brien, chairman of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, leaving the meeting with the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, at the Department oif Justice yesterday. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Tue, Feb 11, 2014, 17:35

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has called for clarity at a Dáil committee hearing tomorrow about the suspected bugging incidents at the headquarters of the Garda Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) .

However, Mr Kenny has rejected a call for an independent inquiry into the controversy, which emerged at the weekend. Last night GSOC confirmed in a statement that three “anomalies” had been discovered as a result of a security sweep of its offices and wifi system in September 2013. Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan claimed GSOC’s statement implied there was some suspicion of Garda involvement.

GSOC representatives are due to be questioned by the Dáil Committee on Public Oversight and Petititions, which is chaired by Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.

Mr Kenny said in the Dáil this afternoon that Mr Callinan’s statement yesterday required an answer. “I would expect that when the GSOC attend in formal session at a public committee, clarity will be provided,’’ he added. “It is very necessary.’’

Mr Kenny rejected calls by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams for an independent inquiry into the controversy. He said they were asking him to set up an inquiry today when an Oireachtas committee was perfectly entitled to consider the matter. The GSOC had responded publicly to the effect that it would attend the committee hearing.

The Taoiseach said the least the Opposition could do was to allow for the GSOC, which was an independent commission, come before an Oireachtas committee and make its position very clear.

“I want to see confidence upheld in the integrity of the way the GSOC is entitled to do its business…and also in respect of the integrity of the running of An Garda Síochána, ’’ he added. “These are two very important pillars of our democratic system.’’

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter will address the Dáil on the issue later this evening.

There were calls today for the resignation of GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien over his handling of the issue.

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors today said Mr O’Brien should “consider his position” after the commission “usurped” the Government by not reporting the alleged surveillance to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.

Mr Shatter was this morning briefing the the Cabinet on the matter following a private meeting with Mr O’Brien yesterday.

Last night Mr Callinan challenged the ombudsman’s account of what happened and demanded clarification over a statement issued by it.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said this morning that calm was needed in relation to the issue and, responding to opposition calls for an independent inquiry, said 24-hours after the event was too for such action.

“Let us first of all get some clarity on what happened, let’s assess it in a calm way and let’s deal with it.”

“I think there are a number of questions that have to be answered about what happened here. I think the first thing we need is some clarity about what exactly did happen,” he said.

“I think the whole issue of eavesdropping and bugging of people and spying, really, is not acceptable. It’s not acceptable in a public body, it’s not acceptable when it’s applied to individuals and I think it’s something that’s going to have to be addressed specifically in this case and I think more generally.”

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin expressed concern this morning over the allegations of electronic anomalies at GSOC and said the public should be made aware of the facts “as soon as possible”.

“Let all the facts be put into the domain and let it happen as soon as possible,” he told reporters.

“Was there a suspicion that somebody was about to bug or was in the process of bugging the independent watchdog for An Garda Síochána? If so, let’s have all the facts on that. What did the investigation that they carried out from this British group unveil... Was there bugging or was there not?”

The Dáil will debate the bugging allegations from about 5.15pm this evening.

Earlier in the Dáil, Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins said the ombudsman was the “victim” in this affair but “is suddenly being turned into the villain” by Mr Shatter.

Meanwhile, the Garda Representative Association said it was concerned that its members’ details could have been compromised during the investigation into the suspected bugging. However its general secretary PJ Stone said he wasn’t looking “ for heads to roll at this stage because the matter is too serious”.

Mr Callinan last night accused GSOC of implying there was Garda complicity in the suspected bugging.

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