‘No definitive evidence’ of surveillance - Shatter

Gardaí subject of ‘baseless innuendo’, Minister tells Dáil during statement on GSOC

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter addressing the Dáil this evening.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter addressing the Dáil this evening.

Tue, Feb 11, 2014, 19:05

There is “no definitive evidence” of unauthorised surveillance of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has told the Dáil.

Mr Shatter said it is “unfortunate that An Garda Síochána have found themselves, during the last 48 hours, the subject of what appears to be completely baseless innuendo”.

He said the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSoc) had concluded that “no definitive evidence of unauthorised technical or electronic surveillance was found”.

Addressing the House on a debate about the investigation the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission carried out about alleged surveillance of its office, Mr Shatter dismissed the need for further investigation of the issue, because the Ombudsman’s office had decided it was unnecessary.

The Minister said some people had called for an inquiry into this matter but “this seems to overlook entirely the fact that GSOC, was is an investigatory body, carried out an investigation and itself decided that no further action was necessary”.

He told the House that what was at issue was “potential threats or vulnerabilities, not evidence that surveillance had in fact taken place”.

A subsequent sweep “identified a third potential issue. There was no suggestion that there was any risk of unauthorised access to the GSOC databases and the documentation on them.”

He told the Dáil that three issues of concern to the Ombudsman’s office were identified, the first from a wi-fi device which was found to have connected to an external wi-fi network.

“I am also advised that the wi-fi device was unable to communicate with any of GSOC’s databases or electronic systems and that the boardroom is not generally used for meetings.,” he said.

The second related to a conference call telephone in the chairman’s office, where the conference phone rang but tests were unable to establish the source of the call.

The third issue related to the detection of an unexpected UK 3G network near the GSOC offices.

“I am advised that neither the Chairman nor any other member of GSOC or its employees use UK-registered mobile phones, so that the presence of any such device in the locality would not seem to have posed a threat to the integrity of GSOC’s communications systems,” he said.

Mr Shatter said there appeared to be no evidence that what was detected had any direct relevance to GSOC

He said the failure of the Ombudsman’s office to make a report to him “is a matter of substantial concern to me. It is only fair to note that at our meeting the chairman expressed regret at the decision by GSOC not to make such a report.”

“I understand that no connection between any member of An Garda Síochána with any of these matters arose,” he said.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins said the GSOC could not go to the Minister “because they couldn’t trust you”. He said “they didn’t go to the guards because they have an oversight function” of the Force.

He said there was a need for an independent committee to investigate the issue. Mr Collins said the committee should include a judge an expert on surveillance technology and somebody suitably qualified from outside the jurisdiction.

Sinn Féin justice spokesman Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said there had been a problematic 18 months in terms of the public’s confidence in the Minister’s ability to preside over and assist, depending on what body it was, the GSOC and An Garda Síochána.

Independent TD Mick Wallace said “the manner in which GSOC has been treated the past few days has been very poor”.

Independent TD Clare Daly said the issue was not way the Ombudsman’s office did not report the issue to the Minister but “why would they”. She said the Commission had no teeth when it was set up, but its members had tried and they were people of integrity.

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