Kenny reveals prisoners’ phone calls with solicitors recorded up to last week

Opposition renews pressure on Taoiseach over Shatter controversy

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is to ask the prison service for a report on the inadvertent taping of phone calls. Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is to ask the prison service for a report on the inadvertent taping of phone calls. Photograph: Alan Betson

Wed, Apr 2, 2014, 01:00


Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is to ask the prison service for a report on the inadvertent taping of phone calls between prisoners and their solicitors, the Taoiseach told the Dáil yesterday.

Enda Kenny said Mr Shatter had been informed of the development at the weekly Cabinet meeting earlier in the day.

He added that the Minister had received a communication from the prison service indicating it had become aware of an anomaly whereby conversations between 84 prisoners and their solicitors were inadvertently recorded up to last Friday (March 28th).

The prison service had taken steps to rectify the situation immediately, he said.

“I have asked the Minister for Justice for a report from the prison service on how this happened,’’ Mr Kenny added.

Replying to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, the Taoiseach said Mr Shatter had assured him no briefing was given to him on the contents of a letter from the then Garda commissioner, Martin Callinan, regarding Garda taping on the Monday, in which the secretary general of the Department of Justice, Brian Purcell, was sent to see Mr Callinan.


Contents
Mr Martin said Mr Shatter had not said, in his statement to the Dáil last week, that he was not aware of the contents of the letter.

“Was the Minister made aware at any stage, either before he went to Mexico or since, up to 12.40pm on the Tuesday, of the content of the letter from the then Garda commissioner?’’ he asked.

Mr Martin said it was inconceivable that the Minister would have been briefed by department officials at 6pm on the Monday about the phone recording system and not told about the letter, detailing in a reasonably comprehensive manner the background to the issue, which had been received from Mr Callinan two weeks earlier.

It was even more incredible, said Mr Martin, that the department’s secretary general, who had received the letter, was the very man sent by the Taoiseach to talk to Mr Callinan and tell him that the Cabinet was unhappy with taping revelations, although it had been stated that Ministers knew nothing about it at that time.

Mr Kenny said he had been briefed by the Attorney General on the gravity of what was involved in the order for discovery in the Ian Bailey case, which was due to conclude on the Tuesday of the Cabinet meeting.

“In my view, the right thing to do was to check the validity, veracity and seriousness of the matter, which was done on the Monday, with a much clearer view being available on that evening,’’ he added.


Focus
Mr Kenny agreed with Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams that the process of discovery in the civil case being taken by Ian Bailey for wrongful arrest “crystallised’’ the focus on the recordings.

He added that the wider implications for “a much more generalised and systematic system of tape-recording calls in quite a number of Garda stations around the country’’ were part of that focus.