Kenny concerned at impact of recordings on tribunals and court cases

Ross wants former Garda chiefs called before PAC to discuss purchase of equipment

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said today the recording of calls to and from  Garda stations could have implications for tribunals as well as court cases. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said today the recording of calls to and from Garda stations could have implications for tribunals as well as court cases. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Thu, Mar 27, 2014, 16:00

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the issue of calls to and from Garda stations being recorded may have implications for tribunals as well as court cases.

It is understood the Morris and Smithwick tribunals are those where there is a concern.

“I don’t know the scale of actual contents on those tapes but we’re concerned about it. It’s a serious issue where in some cases, court cases have been dealt with, others reaching as far as tribunals may have implications for some of the findings there,” Mr Kenny said today.

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The Taoiseach added the matter was very serious and that was why a Commission of Investigation has been set up.

This afternoon, the Special Criminal Court ruled an IRA membership trial can proceed after a senior garda told the court that phone lines at Garda stations at Cahir and Clonmel, connected to the investigation, were not linked to a recording system.

The three-judge court has adjourned the trial until next Tuesday to allow the defendants to seek physical inspections of the stations, in Co Tipperary.

Thomas McMahon (31) and his co-accused Noel Noonan (34) were due to stand trial at the Special Criminal Court yesterday, but Isobel Kennedy SC said a matter had arisen “in light of recent events of which we are all aware”.

Meanwhile, speaking in Leixlip, Co Kildare today at the confirmation €5 billion has been spent on the upgrade of the Intel campus, Mr Kenny said he felt it was his duty to send a senior official, secretary general of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell, to Garda Headquarters to meet Martin Callinan.

Asked if Mr Purcell had been instructed to ask Mr Callinan to resign Mr Kenny replied: “The Commissioner should be aware of my feelings about the gravity of the information relayed to me by the Attorney General and I asked that the secretary general of the department of Justice inform the Commissioner of my feelings.”

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, attending the same event as Mr Kenny, said there was concern around the possible impact on cases where a conviction has already been secured.

“We’re working on the terms of reference for that and expect that we will have that completed very shortly and be moving as quickly as possible to the establishment of that commission of investigation so we can establish the full extent of this taping exercise.”

Independent TD Shane Ross told The Irish Times today he planned to ask the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee John McGuinness to request the former Garda Commissioners, Martin Callinan and Fachtna Murphy, to appear before the committee to explain the purchases of equipment for recording of the phone calls.

New equipment was purchased for this purpose in 2008. Mr Ross said the price of the tender, which has a current estimate is around €500,000, raised a question around the spending of public funds. He said officials from the Department of Justice should also be called before the PAC to explain the tender.

The terms of reference may not be ready until next month, the Government has said.

It was confirmed that while over 2,500 recordings have been collected, there is no conclusive information on how Garda stations were involved and the extent of the recording.

Government officials were yesterday working on the assumption that most of the larger stations, such as divisional headquarters, would have equipment installed.

Sources said that the terms of reference would probably include a mandate to ascertain how many stations were involved, when it was introduced, whether it was subject to any rules or procedures or internal regulations.