Shatter to be pressed on differences with GSOC
Minister confirms he will appear before Oireachtas committee
Pádraig Mac Lochlainn: said the Oireachtas committee had yet to get a response from the commission over its request for access to the unredacted reports on the security sweep of its building.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is likely to be pressed by TDs at an Oireachtas committee hearing about differences between accounts given by him and the GSOC chairman on the alleged surveillance controversy.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has yet to reveal if it will provide the Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions with a report on security sweeps carried out at the GSOC’s Dublin offices.
However, Mr Shatter has confirmed he will appear before the committee, with the hearing scheduled to take place next week.
The GSOC itself would not comment further last night, with a spokesperson saying: “We said everything [at the committee hearing].”
Committee chairman Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said Mr Shatter was likely to be questioned on the differences between his statements to the Dáil and the account given by GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien.
Mr Mac Lochlainn also said the committee had yet to get a response from the commission over its request for access to the unredacted reports by the UK security company on its security sweep of its building. He also said Mr Shatter would be pressed on the strong suspicions of the GSOC that it had been bugged and whether he agreed with this view.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he was satisfied “that no organ of the State put the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission under surveillance” and said Mr Shatter had not withheld information from the Dáil earlier this week.
Opposition TDs claimed differences between details provided by Mr Shatter and Mr O’Brien caused confusion.
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald claimed Mr Shatter “was briefed on all of this but the account he chose to give to the Dáil on Tuesday is at odds with that outlined by the chairman of GSOC.
“The Minister for Justice and Equality, it appears, has sought to muddy the waters and this is unacceptable.”
Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins told the Dáil that Mr O’Brien said the GSOC investigation had been launched into suspected surveillance “on the basis that the acting director of investigations was of the opinion that the threshold of a threat had been met and the commission commenced an investigation into the Garda Síochána.
“When I pointedly asked Mr O’Brien yesterday if he had informed the Minister of this fact when he briefed him, he stated that he had done so,” Mr Collins said. “The Minister did not make deputies aware of this matter in his statement to the Dáil on Tuesday. There is, therefore, a significant divergence of opinion in this regard”.
However, Mr Gilmore rejected this, saying: “I do not accept that the Minister withheld information from the Dáil. The information he gave the House was based on the briefing he was given by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.”
He also said the Minister must have a good relationship with both the GSOC and the Garda Síochána “If anything, what we have seen in the past couple of days is the commission asserting its independence, which is a good thing. I support the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission in asserting its independence.”