Ball of smoke fails to fumigate bugs from Dáil chamber

Matter of huge national concern that someone didn’t inform someone that something didn’t happen

Shatter called  GSOC boss in and, after a long meeting, he said there was no evidence of any bugging and he didn’t want the finger of suspicion pointing in the direction of the Garda

Alan Shatter called GSOC boss in and, after a long meeting, he said there was no evidence of any bugging and he didn’t want the finger of suspicion pointing in the direction of the Garda

Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 01:00

Something didn’t happen and it is a matter of huge national concern that somebody didn’t inform someone that something didn’t happen.

See what happens when you don’t tell somebody that something didn’t happen? At the very least, somebody should have informed the Minister.

Now, the Taoiseach is very concerned, the Minister is greatly concerned, the Garda Commissioner is utterly concerned and the Garda representative bodies are apoplectic.

All because of something which didn’t happen. You can understand why they are all so upset. We need “absolute clarity” on this, said Enda yesterday.

Alan Shatter wanted to “underscore” the importance of the prompt reporting of “issues of concern” to him. He told the Dáil that failure to do so is “a matter of substantial concern” to him.

It seems when there is nothing to report, it should be promptly reported to Alan that there is nothing to report. After all, he is the Minister for Justice.

The Taoiseach fully agrees.

If nothing else comes of this confusing episode about seemingly imaginary bugs infesting the woodwork of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, at least we have now found a Government Minister with a unique talent.

For it appears that Alan Shatter, unlike his Cabinet colleagues, is a man who likes to micro-manage.

Imagine if the head of Irish Water, for example, were to phone up Phil Hogan and say: “Minister, I must see you at once. Something very important hasn’t happened.

“You see, we thought we had a big leak in the water mains leading into Government Buildings, but we investigated thoroughly, and, guess what? There wasn’t any leak at all. Turns out when the fountain below in the courtyard is left on all night the wind blows sideways and makes a puddle over by the door. It cost us a few bob to bring the engineers over from England to do the survey. But it was worth it to find out there isn’t any leak.”

Doubtless Big Phil, who says he doesn’t micro-manage, would thank him profusely for the information and immediately bring the issue to Cabinet. Not.

The phrase of the day from politicians and handlers on the Government side in Leinster House yesterday was “ball of smoke”.

When asked what they thought of this very odd tale about the GSOC offices being bugged – or not, which seems to be the case as of now, it was always the same reply: “It’s nothing but a ball of smoke.”

A newspaper story on Sunday had it that the offices were found to have been under electronic surveillance following a sweep of the premises.

People wondered who might be behind this. They put two and two together and came up with the force – An Garda Síochána. The GSOC, meanwhile, said nothing. Then Shatter hauled, sorry, called their boss in and, after a long meeting, he said there was no evidence of any bugging and he didn’t want the finger of suspicion pointing in the direction of the Garda.

The Garda Commissioner was incensed. He feels his members have been put under suspicion. The GSOC had questions to answer.

It’s a pity Commissioner Callinan opted for a career in the force, he would have been a marvellous asset to the diplomatic corps.

So. Was there any bugging at all? No definitive evidence, said Enda.

No, none, said Alan. He was going by “the facts that are known to me”.

But as it stands now, he is certain that “it has not been established that the offices were subject to surveillance”.

In the absence of knowing whether or not the offices were bugged, the Opposition seized the chance to bring up a troubling matter raised last week by Independent TD Mick Wallace.

Fianna Fáil was particularly taken with his story of the Garda whistleblower who went to talk to the “confidential recipient” (the person to whom members of the force can take complaints) and was, allegedly, told by this official not to upset the Minister for Justice “or he’ll go after you”.

A number of deputies asked Shatter to comment on this. Earlier, Micheál Martin asked Enda Kenny to comment too, but he got nowhere.

The transcript, as read into the Dáil record, makes for interesting reading.

But Alan said he knew nothing about “some transcript”, he didn’t know how it was created and he had no idea about any meeting between the confidential recipient and the whistleblower. “All I can say to deputies is that there is no question in any circumstances of me threatening to do anything to anyone . . . absolutely

‘Deeply disconcerting’
Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman Niall Collins found the contents of the transcript, which is in the position of the Garda whistleblower, “deeply disconcerting”.

He added there was also an audio record of the meeting. This is in the possession of the whistleblower’s solicitor.

Meanwhile, an unlikely alliance sprang up between Mick Wallace, Clare Daly and true blue former Fine Gael stalwart, Lucinda Creighton, who lambasted the Taoiseach, the Minister and the members of the Garda representative organisations for their part in this saga.

Enda had made “an astonishing attack” on the GSOC while the Garda sergeants and inspectors body had committed “a gross abuse of its public position”.

The chairman of the GSOC is before a Dáil committee today.

Unless nothing else comes into the public domain, there is, as the Taoiseach said, “no definitive evidence” of any bugging.

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