‘No evidence’ of GSOC surveillance, Shatter tells Dáil

Sinn Féin demands more detailed inquiry

Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter: said there was no evidence that the headquarters of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission’s office was put under electronic surveillance Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Minister for Justice and Equality Alan Shatter: said there was no evidence that the headquarters of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission’s office was put under electronic surveillance Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Tue, Feb 18, 2014, 21:29

There was no evidence that the headquarters of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission’s office was put under electronic surveillance, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter told the Dáil tonight.

He said the security consultants, Rits, had said, based on reports provided to it, that “there is no evidence of any technical or electronic surveillance against GSOC’’. Mr Shatter said “that is no evidence at all, not merely no definitive evidence’’.

Mr Shatter said that while he appreciated that GSOC relied on the reports it received from the security company it contacted, he could not ignore the report he had received from the company asked to conduct a peer review of the technical documentation furnished by GSOC to him and the information accompanying it.

Mr Shatter also said he had received additional information to that furnished to him on Tuesday. The wifi system was found to be connecting to another system located in a business premises close to the offices, he added.

“In reply to an enquiry from one of my officials in the Department of Justice, GOSC advised this morning that the ‘business premises’ referred to is an Insomnia coffee shop within a Spar outlet on the ground floor of the building occupied by GSOC,’’ said Mr Shatter.

The Minister said it was a matter of concern to him that this full information was not supplied to him prior to the Dáil debate last week nor given to the Oireachtas committee.

“Before this comment is used to accuse me again of trying to undermine GSOC, I want to reiterate that it is my only objective to ensure that the truth is known about all these matters,’’ he added.

The Minister was responding to a Sinn Féin private member’s motion calling for an independent inquiry into the controversy. Party justice spokesman Jonathan O’Brien said the Government’s proposal was, in essence, the appointment of a High Court judge to review documentation already in the public domain.

“This is a serious matter,’’ he added. “Questions do remain and answers must be given.’’

Mr O’Brien said there should be a thorough, in-depth investigation with the scope to examine all the relevant papers and documentation and with the powers to compel witnesses to testify.

Earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny strongly defended Mr Shatter in his handling of the controversy.

Mr Kenny said he rejected the assertion that the Minister had deliberately set out to undermine the GSOC. “Clearly, this is a matter about which there has been a great deal of confusion over the last period,’’ he added.

He said the Minister would go before an Oireachtas committee tomorrow and would have no difficulty in dealing with any questions.

The Taoiseach was replying in the Dáil this afternoon to Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Mr Martin claimed that the Government, and particularly Mr Shatter, had sought to undermine public confidence in GSOC and had essentially rubbished the allegation relating to alleged surveillance. “And you, Taoiseach, deliberately or otherwise, told an untruth regarding GSOC’s reporting obligations under the legislation to the Government, ‘’ he added.

Mr Kenny said he had misquoted the relevant section of the Act and had apologised to the House.

Ms McDonald said the Government had been brought very reluctantly to the position of an independent inquiry into the matter. There were records, she said, that the Minister for Justice was less than forthcoming on the issue in the Dáil.

Mr Kenny said a retired judge would be appointed shortly to investigate controversy and the terms of reference drawn up by the Minister for Justice