Dáil Sketch: Nothing routine about bugging revelations

Transcript question leaves Kenny uncomfortable

  GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien  arriving at  Leinster House yesterday. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien arriving at Leinster House yesterday. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Thu, Feb 13, 2014, 01:01

There was evidence. But that evidence wasn’t definitive.

They had suspicions. But couldn’t prove any offence.

It was suspected that members of the Garda could have been behind the caper. But as no offence was definitively identified they couldn’t accuse anybody of committing one.

However, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) believed its offices were under surveillance. Stuff was coming out in the media that should not have been coming out. Was somebody spying on them?

They cannot say if this surveillance might have been authorised at official level. They just don’t know.

So the GSOC decided to sweep its premises for surveillance devices. It found “threats” and believed it was being monitored.

This wasn’t a routine operation. They felt they had reason to worry.

No big deal as far as the Taoiseach and his Minister for Justice are concerned. All routine, insisted Alan Shatter on Tuesday night in the Dáil.

Except it wasn’t. To use Shatter’s own yardstick – definitively, it wasn’t. The chairman of GSOC, Simon O’Brien, totally contradicted his Dáil version of the story yesterday. No Government members on the Oireachtas committee to look into this affair seemed bothered to ask why the Minister seemed to have gotten his information so wrong when speaking to the Dáil. He had, after all, had a long meeting with O’Brien.

Behind the bugs
And Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae from Kerry wittered on about “Inspechtor Clue-Soh” and tried to float the idea that the person who leaked the document was also the person behind the bugs.

He accused O’Brien, the chairman of GSOC, of casting “aspirations” on the very excellent members of the Garda Síochána.

On the other hand, somebody leaked a secret document from the GSOC to a newspaper. Now that, these hotshot TDs could deal with.

Labour’s Derek Nolan also seemed to think the leaker could be the snooper.
It took Richard Boyd Barrett to point out that somebody with access to classified documents would not have any need for surveillance equipment.

But the Government line was all about finding the mole. And case closed.

Never mind the bugs, the existence of which the GSOC couldn’t prove beyond a doubt, but are near-certain existed.

Some people might think this is a very scary development deserving further investigation. Members of the commission were forced to hold sensitive meetings in coffee shops near their offices and wouldn’t use their mobile phones to discuss the issue.

That’s a lot of hugger-mugger for something the Taoiseach and his Minister appear to feel is of little consequence.

But as for the matter of the leak, now that’s a different issue entirely. A document marked “secret” fell into the hands of a reporter. A story appeared in the newspaper. How could the GSOC have allowed this to happen? Who leaked the information? Suddenly, certain political knickers got themselves into a twist around Leinster House.

Decent enough
The commissioner was decent enough to rule out any suggestion of Garda involvement in the surveillance of his premises.