Justice committee seeks early commission report on key issues

Inquiry into Garda taping may take over a year to conclude investigations

The all-party parliamentary committee on justice is writing to the Taoiseach requesting that the commission of investigation into Garda recording of telephone calls be allowed report quickly on two key issues.

It is expected that the commission, chaired by Supreme Court judge Nial Fennelly, may take over a year to conclude its investigations, based on detailed and comprehensive terms of reference.

However, following a private meeting yesterday, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice unanimously agreed two of the terms under its remit should be "front-loaded" and reported on sooner.

They are the sequence of events leading to the retirement of former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan last month; and the manner in which officials in the Department of Justice dealt with correspondence that disclosed the widespread practice of routinely recording telephone calls on some phone lines in divisional headquarters.

Arising from the decision, the committee's chair David Stanton is writing to Enda Kenny requesting that the terms of reference of the commission be amended to prioritise these two issues.

Members of the committee have argued these issues – the subject of greatest political controversy – could be dealt with quickly and could help assuage public concern.

In a statement issued yesterday, the committee said it was requesting the commission publish an interim report on those two matters "as soon as possible but, ideally, within a period of approximately eight weeks".

Conducted in public
It is also calling for the inquiry to be conducted in public, "in so far as is practicable".

Mr Stanton said last night the committee wanted to emphasise its understanding that Mr Justice Fennelly would be independent in all his functions.

“There has been a lot of debate and discussion on these issues. Personally it is something that could be done very quickly,” he said.

The Cork East Fine Gael TD also said it was "important too that we do not tie the hands of the judge".