Timeline – how events unfolded
GSOC commissioners Simon O’Brien (left) and Kieran Fitzgerald arriving for the Public Service Oversight Committee meeting at the Oireachtas in Leinster House.Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The irish Times
The Sunday Times carries a report saying a UK security company had been hired by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) to establish if its office was bugged. According to the report, sweeps carried out by the company found evidence of bugging on a telephone landline and the behaviour of a wifi device and unexplained detection of a UK 3G mobile network in the the GSOC offices suggested bugging. Minister for Justice Alan Shatter admits that the newspaper report was the first he had heard of the matter. Taoiseach Enda Kenny says he had sought a report from Shatter.
The GSOC issues its first statement, confirming UK security consultants Verrimus had carried out sweeps on its offices between September and December last year. It says “three technical and electronic anomalies” were found, adding “there was no evidence of Garda misconduct”. Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan says he was concerned the GSOC had introduced the force as suspects. GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien visits Shatter’s office to brief him after being summoned by the Minister.
A day after being briefed by the GSOC and with calls increasing for an independent inquiry, Shatter tells the Dáil that the commission had assured him it had found no “definitive” evidence of bugging. He rejects calls for an independent inquiry, saying the GSOC had already carried out its own investigation and had found no evidence of bugging. The commission says it had referred in its statement to no evidence of Garda misconduct in order to end speculation that the force was behind the suspected bugging.
Wednesday February 12th
GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien and commissioner Kieran FitzGerald both tell an Oireachtas committee that they suspected their offices were bugged. Of the three anomalies flagged, they appear most convinced that O’Brien’s conference call landline was bugged. Fitzgerald says that on the basis of the line’s reaction to being tested for surveillance, there was a “remote to zero” chance of there being any other explanation other than the phone was bugged.
O’Brien says he had not alerted the Government when the matters came to light after last year’s security sweeps because he feared “immense” fallout and did not have absolute evidence of bugging. He believes a report compiled by Verrimus had been leaked to a journalist from inside the GSOC by one of seven people with access to it. He reveals he had privately met the Garda Commissioner the previous day to discuss how they would work together in future after an invitation to meet was extended to him.
The Taoiseach says he was mistaken when he had told the Dáil earlier that the GSOC should have, by law, taken its concerns to the Government.
Thursday February 13th
Shatter stops short of expressing confidence in the GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien when asked to do so. He says statements by the commission the previous day were contradictory and had caused confusion, adding he had written to it seeking clarity. He says the GSOC had late last year opened a public interest inquiry into its suspicions of bugging and it was obliged to tell his office any time it opened such an inquiry, which it had not done.
He insists what had been found by Verrimus were “vulnerabilities and potential threats” rather than proof of bugging. He again says there was no need for an independent investigation. Shatter comes under increasing pressure to explain differences in his account of the controversy to the Dáil and O’Brien’s account to the Oireachtas committee.
Shatter moves to address his apparent failure to back GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien, saying he has confidence in the agency and in the three-person commission. Callinan says he is certain no surveillance had been carried out on the GSOC by the Garda, or rogue members within it.
A number of media reports suggest the GSOC called in Verrimus last year because the commission was concerned that Callinan seemed to have more information than he should have had on a draft report it had drawn up into its four-year investigation into the Garda’s handling of drug-dealing informer Kieran Boylan. However, the reports say the commission had misinterpreted Callinan’s remarks last year on then unpublished draft report, with Shatter subsequently stating the GSOC staff had become confused in that regard.
Shatter announces a retired High Court judge will review the affair. He says he has now learned from the GSOC that as early as last December, it was satisfied the security anomaly relating to the wifi in its office had been identified as the terminal randomly connecting with the wifi in a coffee shop. Shatter suggests this was new information that warranted an independent review. Verrimus describes as “wholly inaccurate” a media report that suggests mobile phones used by its own staff had been the source of the 3G UK network it had detected in the GSOC’s offices. It says the scenario reported was technologically impossible.