Thursday 18 December 2014

Coalition unease at outrage over Anglo Tapes witch-hunt

Fionnan Sheahan, Cormac McQuinn and Michael Brennan

Published 06/07/2013 | 05:00

Michael Noonan

THERE is mounting outrage over bids to hunt down the Irish Independent's Anglo Tapes whistleblower.

Unrest is also growing in government circles over Finance Minister Michael Noonan's remarks that those investigating the Anglo saga were "mucking around in garda business" and his revelation that efforts were being made to expose the source of the leak.

In his controversial remarks, Mr Noonan appeared to take a swipe at any investigation of the Anglo Tapes not conducted by the gardai. And he said the special liquidators had established a probe to track down the whistleblower.

While Mr Noonan said that he had not made the decision to pursue the source of the tapes, concerns remain that gardai will ultimately be called in to find the leaker.

The head of the National Union of Journalists' Irish branch, Seamus Dooley, blasted any suggestion that the source of the leak would be pursued and called Mr Noonan's comments "off the wall".

Meanwhile, in the wake of the Anglo Tapes, the Government is expected to review the entire area of tackling white-collar crime.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore told Labour TDs this week that the Government would look at the resources available to the gardai and DPP, tightening up the legislation, and the length of time it takes to bring a prosecution.

"There is continuing pressure to ensure that whatever resources are required will be provided," a coalition source said.

WHISTLEBLOWER

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was careful yesterday to steer clear of the issue of the leaking of the Anglo Tapes – while not ruling out garda involvement in tracking down the source.

Asked about the controversy, he restricted his comments to the Government's plan for an Oireachtas banking inquiry.

Mr Kenny said that the "justice process", involving criminal trials where charges have been proffered against individuals, "takes its course completely independently".

Meanwhile, Leo Varadkar denied that there was a government campaign to find the source of the tapes.

He said: "In relation to the leaks of the tapes, it's the liquidator who has expressed concerns that they (the tapes) might impact on some of the civil and criminal proceedings that are happening."

The Transport Minister added: "It's not that there is any government campaign to find out who leaked them or anything like that."

However, fears remain that the whistleblower is now the focus of government attention.

Mr Dooley said the implication of Mr Noonan's comments was that investigative journalists were interfering in a garda investigation.

He said this was "reflective of a degree of arrogance and ignorance on the part of a senior government minister" and that "an already enraged public had now been left reeling" by the possibility that public funds could be devoted to uncovering the source of the leak, "rather than a public investigation which exposes the truth".

INVESTIGATION

Mr Dooley said the Irish Independent and its sister title, the Sunday Independent, "have done a public service by revealing the contempt in which Anglo Irish Bank executives held not just the government but the Irish people".

He added that the newspapers had acted responsibly in the manner in which the Anglo Tapes had been put into the public domain.

Fianna Fail TD Sean Fleming said the Government was being "utterly hypocritical" in its response to the Anglo Tapes in the same week that it published legislation designed to protect whistleblowers.

He referenced Mr Noonan's comment and pointed out: "Less than 24 hours after the legislation was published, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said the leaking of the tapes was a 'serious matter' and that it was being investigated.

"The Tanaiste needs to make up his mind – either Labour and the Government want people to blow the whistle on serious cases of possible misconduct or they don't."

Irish Independent

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