‘Embedding of real and effective culture of co-operation’ required

Fitzgerald says parties involved in claims of bugging should take heed of report

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald expressed confidence in the GSOC board in the wake of the Cooke Report but said it should have moved earlier to bring its concerns about alleged bugging to her predecessor, Alan Shatter.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald expressed confidence in the GSOC board in the wake of the Cooke Report but said it should have moved earlier to bring its concerns about alleged bugging to her predecessor, Alan Shatter.

Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 01:01

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald expressed confidence in the GSOC board in the wake of the Cooke Report but said it should have moved earlier to bring its concerns about alleged bugging to her predecessor, Alan Shatter.

Saying the Government accepted the findings made by retired High Court judge John Cooke, Ms Fitzgerald said last night his report should give “food for thought” in relation to comments made at the outset.

In particular, she noted the retired judge’s conclusion the evidence did not support the proposition actual surveillance took place and much less it was carried out by Garda members.

Mr Justice Cooke’s findings were “clear and measured”, she said.

Asked whether the report vindicated Mr Shatter’s response, she said: “Certainly I would say we now have an evidence-based report and I would think that everybody who made comment at the time should analyse this report and review how they reacted to it . . .”

Public confidence

The Minister called for a culture of co-operation between the Garda force and GSOC, saying it was important for the public and the Garda to have confidence in the body. “I do have confidence in the board of GSOC. GSOC are an important body,” she told reporters at Government Buildings.

“I do take note of what’s in the Justice Cooke report in regard to strengthening legislation. I do note that GSOC did not report to the Minister when they should have,” she added.

“There was a statutory obligation to report to the Minister at the time. There was a delay in that and the judge does note that. But, as I say, the judge does say that the members acted in good faith.”

Protocols and law

She was speaking after a Cabinet meeting last night at which the Government took stock of the report: “Working together and sharing information are issues which require more than just protocols and legislative change. What is required is a shift in approach and the embedding of a real and effective culture of co-operation.”

Asked whether the report reflected badly on GSOC, the Minister said the retired judge noted he understood the concerns that arose within the body and its members acted in good faith. “He does comment on the language used in the Verrimus report, that that understandably heightened their concerns,” she said. “It’s important to remind ourselves as well that there are no findings of fact, that there are no findings of negligence or no findings of fact against any of the members of the commission. The judge makes that very clear.”

Although GSOC did not receive the judge’s findings until after last night’s Cabinet meeting, Ms Fitzgerald dismissed suggestions his report should have been handed to the ombudsman commission at an earlier point. “Well Cabinet just discussed it tonight so I think they’ve been given it at the appropriate time,” she said.

Fair procedures

“There is also a very clear discussion and comment by the justice in the report about fair procedures and he’s very clear that throughout the process he operated fair procedures in relation to his dealings with GSOC, so I believe that that’s been followed through in the way we dealt with GSOC.”