Taoiseach concedes GSOC did not have to tell Minister about bugging

Kenny regrets if any ‘excessive’ meaning attributed to words

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said a transcript of an alleged conversation between a Garda confidential recipient and whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe made for ‘serious and grave reading’.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said a transcript of an alleged conversation between a Garda confidential recipient and whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe made for ‘serious and grave reading’. Photograph: Alan Betson

Thu, Feb 13, 2014, 01:03

Taoiseach Enda Kenny conceded that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) was not required to inform the Minister for Justice of the possible bugging of its headquarters.

Asked by Opposition speakers to clarify remarks he made on the issue, Mr Kenny said “any excessive meaning attributed to my words is regretted’’.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams had challenged Mr Kenny to take the opportunity to correct the Dáil record and show that the GSOC was not obliged to report to the Minister under the relevant section of the Garda Síochána Act, as the Taoiseach had claimed.

The Act said that the GSOC “may’’ make any appropriate reports to the Minister, said Mr Adams.

The matter was also raised by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and SF deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Mr Kenny agreed there was a provision in the law for the GSOC that it “may’’ report to the Minister for Justice. “The GSOC themselves considered that, and they decided not to inform the Minister and they have regretted that decision. I think we can put that behind us now.’’

He rejected the assertion he intended to undermine the independence of the GSOC. On the contrary, he was very clear about maintaining its independence and integrity.

Meanwhile Mr Kenny told Mr Martin he had asked the Department of Justice for a report on an alleged conversation between a Garda confidential recipient and whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Mr Martin said a transcript made for serious and grave reading. “The import of the transcript is such that the Garda whistleblower is frustrated and there is a sense of disbelief that his complaints are going nowhere.’’

Mr Martin said the transcript revealed efforts, if not subtle threats, that if the material in the possession of the whistleblower ever got into the media, “Minister for Justice Alan Shatter would come after the whistleblower’’.

This, said Mr Martin, was a grave situation in a democracy, particularly given the office involved. Basically, he said, the confidential recipient suggested in the transcript that maybe the Minister was too close to the Garda commissioner and that, as a result, he would not deal with some of the issues.

Mr Kenny said he was concerned about the issue. He added that Mr Shatter, who had dealt with the issue in the Dáil on Tuesday night, did not have any knowledge of the alleged conversation, of a transcription of the conversation or of a tape of it.

Nor was there any basis for implying that the Minister ever expressed the kind of views that were attributed to him in what had been alleged, Mr Kenny added.

“Nor is there a basis for implying that the Minister had any conversation of any nature with the confidential recipient concerning the expressions of views by him. To suggest otherwise would be completely false.’’

Mr Kenny said he did regard the issue as a matter of fundamental importance and of public concern. He had spoken to the Minister and had asked the Department for a report.