Shatter orders urgent inquiry into taping of prisoner-to-solicitor calls

Minister asks Inspector of Prisons to investigate and report as soon as possible

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has asked the Inspector of Prisons to carry out an urgent investigation into the circumstances surrounding the recording of telephone conversations between prisoners and their solicitors.

In a statement last night the Minister said he had asked the inspector to submit his report as soon as possible and the results would be published.

The terms of reference of the investigation are as follows:

(a) identify the circumstances that gave rise to the recording of these telephone conversations and the action taken to address this;


(b) any action now required to address the issue, including any amendments to existing law, regulations and practices; (c) consider the data protection implications of the recording of conversations and any action required to ensure compliance with data protection legislation and the rights of those in prison.

A copy of the Minister’s letter to the Inspector of Prisons has been given to the director general of the Irish Prison Service who has been asked to provide the inspector with every assistance possible.

It has also emerged that the commission of investigation into the Garda phone recordings will establish if information about phone calls in and out of stations was withheld from judicial tribunals.

Government sources said yesterday the commission’s terms of reference will cover all recordings at Garda stations, which will have implications for tribunals as well as court cases.

The issue of phone calls from Dundalk Garda station in the late 1980s was raised during the Smithwick Tribunal which investigated if there was Garda collusion in the IRA murders of two RUC officers.

Tribunal chairman Peter Smithwick was told during the investigation that there were no tape recordings of calls to or from Dundalk station relating to the murders in 1989.

There were persistent claims a Garda mole in Dundalk Garda station tipped off the IRA about the visit of the two RUC officers.

The tribunal found at least one garda colluded in the murder of the two officers.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny raised the possibility this week that the phone-taping revelations could have serious implications for tribunals.

Serious issue
"I don't know the scale of the actual contents that are on those tapes but we're concerned about it. It's a serious issue. Where in some cases, court cases have been dealt with, others reaching up as far as tribunals may have implications for some of the findings here," he said.

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins is a columnist with and former political editor of The Irish Times