Shatter rules out further investigation into alleged bugging of GSOC office
Minister tells Dáil that ombudsman’s office itself said further inquiry was ‘not required’
Justice Minister Alan Shatter: Sources say he initiated the review himself
He told the Dáil the commission itself said further inquiry was not required. Opposition parties and Independent TDs called for an independent inquiry but Mr Shatter said these calls seemed “to overlook entirely the fact that GSOC was an investigatory body, carried out an investigation and itself decided that no further action was necessary”.
At the end of a two-hour debate on the controversy, Mr Shatter also rejected Opposition claims he had undermined the ombudsman’ office.
“I have no beef with GSOC,” the Minister insisted, adding he had an appropriate working relationship with the independent body and with the Garda Commissioner.
When he opened the debate, he said the GSOC had concluded that “no definitive evidence of unauthorised technical or electronic surveillance was found”.
Mr Shatter also said it was “unfortunate that An Garda Síochána have found themselves, during the last 48 hours, the subject of what appears to be completely baseless innuendo”.
Issues of concern
He told the House that what was at issue was “potential threats or vulnerabilities, not evidence that surveillance had in fact taken place”.
He said three issues of concern to the ombudsman’s office were identified, the first from a wifi device, which was found to have connected to an external wifi network.
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.
He said it was “a matter of substantial concern to me”, that the GSOC did not inform him about the investigation.
Both the Minister and earlier Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed the hope that the GSOC’s appearance before the Dáil Committee on Public Oversight and Petitions would “clarify” matters. Mr Kenny said: “This is very necessary.”
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 called for an independent investigation.
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 the GSOC and An Garda Síochána.
Independent TD Mick Wallace said: “The manner in which GSOC has been treated in the past few days has been very poor.” Independent TD Clare Daly said the issue was not the 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.
Reform Alliance TD Lucinda Creighton called on the Taoiseach to apologise for his “deeply misleading” remarks that the ombudsman was required to report to the Minister, when the relevant legislation said he “may, not shall” report.
She added that the comments of the head of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors, John Redmond, in calling for Ombudsman Simon O’Brien to resign, were a “gross abuse of his public position”.