GSOC chairman will not resign over bugging report

O’Brien believes public and Minister have confidence in GSOC despite leak controversy

The chairman of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has no intention of resigning following a report into a leak to a newspaper last February that suggested the watchdog suspected it was under surveillance.

Simon O’Brien said he believes both the public and Minister for Justice have confidence in the work carried out by GSOC.

“Of course the public should have confidence in us,” he said. “We’ve learned from what happened in the past and we’re moving forward to do some very important business in the future.”

GSOC has been mired in controversy since the Sunday Times reported in February the commission suspected its premises were under surveillance and had engaged a British counter-intelligence firm to conduct a security sweep.


A report by retired High Court judge Mr Justice John Cooke, published in June, found no evidence bugging had taken place at the GSOC offices last year.

However, it noted that, given the sophistication of modern surveillance equipment, it could not rule the bugging possibility out.

Mr O'Brien confirmed all three GSOC commissioners had been interviewed by barrister Mark Connaughton SC as part of his investigation to ascertain the source of the leak to Sunday Times journalist John Mooney.

“He’s interviewed all three commissioners, all the people involved in the initial investigation and security sweep, and anyone else he believes may have had information at the time or afterwards.”

He added Mr Connaughton had noted some “rather inaccurate assertions” made in the Sunday Times article.

When asked on RTÉ radio's Morning Ireland whether he had any intention of stepping down, Mr O'Brien responded: "I have no intention of resigning, nor will my commissioner colleagues be resigning".

“We want the public and the gardaí alike to have confidence in the service we provide,” he said. “It’s an impartial service, it’s an important service... I want to give confidence to people to come forward to give us this information so we can make policing stronger in this country.”

GSOC last night published a report which included excerpts of Mr Connaughton’s findings with “as much detail as is possible” after a previous statement, which said it would not be publishing the report because it contained personal data.

Last night’s version did not include operational, investigative or personal details.

In the report, Mr Connaughton said he was “satisfied” the journalist in question received confidential information from some person or persons associated with the security sweep.

However, he was “not able to establish when he received such information, from whom he received it, or indeed the exact nature of the information disclosed”.

He added “it is possible that [the journalist] had a number of sources, some of whom may have been external” as the sweep undertaken “necessitated interaction with external persons for various technical purposes”.

Mr Connaughton was satisfied the journalist did not have a copy of the internal report on the Garda watchdog’s suspicions, as the content of the article “cannot be reconciled” with the content of the report.

Mr Connaughton also examined who - internally and externally - may have had access to the documents containing information gleaned by the journalist.

As the investigation was “most interested” in dealings between the GSOC and the journalist - who declined to be interviewed by Mr Connaughton - it focused on the relationship between the GSOC and journalists generally, including how and through whom business was habitually conducted.

He also had access to e-mail correspondence, photocopier logs, CCTV recordings, documentation pertaining to investigations, internal policies and procedures, and technical analysis of any mobile phones requested.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter