Questions for Garda Ombudsman Commission to answer before committee today

Confusion still surrounds details of the three ‘technical anomalies’ as well as GSOC’s decision not to inform Minister for Justice Alan Shatter

Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 14:40

5. GSOC will be asked by committee members to say if it suspected a particular agency of being behind the alleged surveillance. Its statement on Monday was telling. It said there was no evidence of any Garda misconduct. By saying that, it immediately put the Garda in the frame, and the clear implication taken by many (including the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan) was that GSOC investigated the possibility that the Garda was involved but found no evidence to support it. Committee members will ask the commissioners if they held such a view or suspicion at any stage. The problem with the line in the statement that purports to ‘clear’ the Garda of any misconduct is that its effect is the exact opposite - the finger of suspicion is suddenly pointed at the police force. Hence, the angry response from Callinan.

6. The Government was wrong in its interpretation of S80(5) the Garda Siochána Act 2005. For two days Taoiseach Enda Kenny and others argued that the Act required the GSOC to draw the Minister’s attention to other matters “because of their gravity or other exceptional circumstances”. The Act does not such thing. The section actually states that the GSCO “may” make a report. If it stated the GSOC “shall” make a report, it would be obligatory. But because the verb “may” is used, it affords the GSOC discretion and it is not obliged to make such a report.

That’s according to the letter of the law. And the Government and Enda Kenny were factually incorrect on that point.

But from a political and public interest perspective, there is a very strong argument there was an onus on the GSOC to inform the Minister of such unusual, serious and worrying discoveries.

Otherwise, it suggests it is operating in a vacuum in an atmosphere of mutual suspicion with the Garda Síochána on the one hand and the Minister for Justice on the other.

What may need to be teased out today is not only the relationship between the GSOC and the Garda (which is poor) but also its relationship with the Minister for Justice, to see if there are any issues or concerns. Both Mac Lochlainn and Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins claimed yesterday that the GSOC don’t trust the Minister, and that the Minister has far too close a relationship with the Garda. These views are sure to get an airing today.

7. GSOC has handed the report on the security sweep and subsequent investigation to the Minister for Justice? Will it hand the report to Mac Lochlainn’s committee?

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