The largest Garda staff association in the State has said that its members were aware of recording take place at Garda stations, but have been surprised at the extent of the practice that has emerged over the past week.
The Garda Representative Association (GRA), which represents more than 11,000 members in the 13,000-strong Garda force, has specifically said that rank and file garda were aware telephone calls were being record.
It said that gardaí assumed the practice was like that in operation in fire and ambulance control rooms, and was used for “clarity of what was said and for accountability” but revealed its members had regular access to playback the recordings.
GRA president John Parker said his organisation had been told by senior officers that all calls into stations on the main line were recorded, but, when they were transferred to other extensions, the recording ceased.
He added Garda personnel had also been warned that some other lines were being recorded and that there were warning stickers on phones alerting gardaí that the line was recorded, describing a widespread practice that was not a secret within the Garda.
The statement will increase speculation that the Government's claims it was unaware of the recording of calls at stations have been overstated in order to detract the media's attention from the split between the coalition partnerslast week over whether the then garda commissioner Martin Callinan should withdraw his description of the actions of Garda whistleblowers as "disgusting".
The GRA said it would await the outcome of the commission of inquiry into the affair which it hoped would establish whether other lines apart from emergency channels were recorded.
“Our members are concerned about the level of recording, but this is an issue we are raising with Garda management,” said Mr Parker.
He could not speculate if Garda members had abused the facility to record calls, but said the matter had “shaken” the Attorney General and clearly warranted investigation.
He added the recent controversies that have engulfed the Garda had undermined the morale of front line gardai and assured the public those members were not part of the decision making process that resulted in calls being recorded.
“The continued speculation in the media is impacting on the policing function,” he said.
“And until we have clarification and concrete facts the continued speculation undermines our members’ day-to-day work.”
He said as far back as 1979 the GRA had called for the establishment of an independent policing authority, which would act as a buffer between Garda management and the wide force on one hand and politics on the other.
“Representation was made to the Department of Justice with ‘negative results’. This call has remained as policy and has been repeated regularly since.”