Michael McDowell ‘not aware’ of recordings

Former minister for justice says he knew nothing of secret Garda tapes

 Michael McDowell: “I am not aware of any plans to record all telephone calls to Garda stations”

Michael McDowell: “I am not aware of any plans to record all telephone calls to Garda stations”

 

Former minister for justice Michael McDowell said during his tenure in office he was “not aware of any plans to record all telephone calls to Garda stations”.

However, retired Fianna Fáil TD Dermot Ahern, who served as minister for justice between 2008 and 2011, did not return calls last night. The late Brian Lenihan served as minister between 2007 and 2008.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said the recordings took place “over a period of up to 30 years”.

“As with other matters under investigation, these are issues which far pre-date my tenure as Minister for Justice. This issue is one that existed throughout the lifetime of the previous government and, indeed, we now know the recording system was upgraded during that government’s term of office in 2008.

‘Not make accusations’

“I do not know whether my predecessor in this office or any member of the previous government was any more aware of these recordings than I was until Monday evening

and I will not make any accusations in that regard.”

It is understood Mr McDowell was unaware of the possibility of any such recordings, as disclosed in recent days, and in reply to a 2006 parliamentary question from former Independent TD Tony Gregory, said he was only aware of the recording of emergency and radio traffic calls.

The late Mr Gregory, a former TD for Dublin Central, asked Mr McDowell, who was minister between 2002 and 2007, “his views on the introduction of the recording of all telephone calls to Garda stations and the replies given in the interests of greater efficiency and public confidence in the Garda”.

In response, Mr McDowell said An Garda Síochána recorded “Garda radio traffic and emergency calls”.

“An Garda Síochána depends on the public to provide information to assist in preventing and detecting crime and such information is provided on a confidential basis, often by telephone,” Mr McDowell added. “Prisoners detained in custody in Garda stations are entitled to telephone their family and their legal representatives and such calls are made in private.

“I am not aware of any plans to record all telephone calls to Garda stations.”