Judge to investigate Alan Kelly bugging claim

Labour TD fears he may be under Garda surveillance

Labour TD Alan Kelly: claims he was warned to “watch his communications” because of his contacts with individuals in relation to the Garda. Photograph:   Eric Luke

Labour TD Alan Kelly: claims he was warned to “watch his communications” because of his contacts with individuals in relation to the Garda. Photograph: Eric Luke

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A claim by Labour Party TD Alan Kelly that his “communications” may be under surveillance by the Garda is to be investigated by a High Court judge.

Mr Kelly claims he was warned to “watch his communications” because of his contacts with individuals in relation to the Garda.

In a statement the Department of Justice said a complaints mechanism existed which could examine the issues raised by Mr Kelly.

Judge John Hannan of the Circuit Court is the complaints referee for queries about telephone bugging and other surveillance by the Garda.

And Ms Justice Marie Baker of the High Court provides oversight of legislation under which surveillance can be carried out. She had full powers of investigation in that regard.

“These judges are of course fully independent in the performance of their functions and they report, as appropriate, to the Taoiseach,” the Department of Justice said in response to queries.

“Given the seriousness of Deputy Kelly’s allegations, the Minister has . . . arranged for his concerns to be brought to the attention of the designated judge for whatever action she deems appropriate, in accordance with the law.”

Mr Kelly has not disclosed the basis for his fears that he may be under surveillance by the Garda, save to say he had been urged by a unnamed person to “watch his communications”.

Tabled a question

He has tabled a question in the Dáil to Misister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to ask if his communications have ever been intercepted. And he said he wants to know if journalists and politicians are sufficiently protected under current legislation.

“Is the legislation robust enough. I want to know if it is fit for purpose,” he told RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke radio show.

Mr Kelly said in the past two years he had built up a network of people who have frequently contacted him about Garda matters.

“I would not be a 100 per cent confident that this activity isn’t going on.

“The issue was raised with me to watch all my communications. That’s of concern to me, that’s why I’ve asked the question.”

Mr Kelly told the Examiner newspaper the purpose of his question to Mr Flanagan was “to get a guarantee from the Minister that my phones and telecommunication have never been intercepted or the records or data ever accessed or used by An Garda Síochána. ”

Mr Kelly said that the two pieces of legislation that deal with the issue date from 1993, the Interception of Postal Packages and Telecommunications Messages Act, and 2011, the Communications – Retention of Data act. He maintains that they are out of date and need to be updated immediately.

‘Pretty serious’

He said it was “pretty serious” if the Minister for Justice “cannot say to me that my communications are not being intercepted.

“My main concern is – are journalists and deputies protected under the law? Is the legislation robust? That’s the motivation behind the questions given everything that’s going on.

“The issue is, we don’t know what’s happening. I want to know that the legislation is working perfectly.

“The legislation – is it robust, is it up to date, are citizens protected?”

A series of Dáil questions by Mr Kelly last month ultimately led to the resignation of Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald. Mr Kelly had asked a series of questions about her knowledge of the legal strategy pursued by former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to “go after” whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe at the O’Higgins commission.

The commission examined allegations of Garda corruption and was the precursor to the current Charleton tribunal, which is looking into allegations of a smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

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