Fears Garda tapes could jeopardise convictions ‘alarmist’

Pat Rabbitte welcomes motion of no confidence in Shatter as chance to put issue to bed

A fiel photograph of Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte (right) and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

A fiel photograph of Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte (right) and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

 

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte has said there is no basis at this stage for “alarmist” suggestions that high profile criminal convictions could be in jeopardy as a result of the recording of phone calls at Garda stations.

He told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics that it served no purpose to be putting about “the wildest possible scenarios that might happen”.

“I think it is entirely alarmist and I don’t think we have any basis to suggest that some of the most notorious convictions in the country are going to be overturned and that rapists and murderers and other serious criminals will walk free,” he said.

“There is absolutely no basis yet for alarmist talk like that.”

The Government this week announced the establishment of a Commission of Investigation into the taping of recordings at Garda stations after it was revealed that calls on certain lines had been recorded for up to 30 years.

The news broke on the same day former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan resigned.

Attorney General Máire Whelan was said to have become aware of the practice as a result of information that emerged in the course of a case being taken by Ian Bailey against the Garda commissioner claiming wrongful arrest in connection with the Sophie Toscan du Plantier case.

The trial of two men charged with IRA membership was delayed when lawyers sought confirmation as to whether telephone calls made by their clients from Garda stations were recorded. It subsequently resumed. A number of other defence lawyers have said they will seek details about the taping of calls their former clients had made.

Opposition parties have questioned the timeline surrounding the issue, which Ms Whelan was said to have been made aware of in November but did not inform the Taoiseach or any other cabinet member about until last weekend.

Mr Rabbitte denied the emergence of the taping revelations was an attempt by the Government to distract attention from the handling concerns about abuse of the penalty points system rasied by garda whistleblowers, and ease the pressure that was building on Minister for Justice Alan Shatter as a reuslt.

“It is a very serious matter that no government would want landed on its lap,” he said.

Mr Rabbitte acknowledged that “it was a bad week for the Government” and that it had been “puzzling” for the public.

Fianna Fáil has tabled a motion of no confidence in Mr Shatter which is to be debated this week, a development which Mr Rabbite said he welcomed.

“I very much welcome that there is a motion of no confidence next week because it provides the opportunity to put this behind us, allow the inquiries to get on with the issues in parallel and deal with the issues we should be dealing with like continuing to grow employment.”

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley told the same programme that he thought there was a chance the motion of no confidence could be carried if backbench Fine Gael and Labour TDs followed through on what they were saying in private.