Commission will not look at McBrearty 'surveillance'
Published 26/04/2016 | 02:30
The Fennelly Commission has ruled out widening its probe to include allegations that gardaí conducted electronic surveillance on Frank McBrearty Jnr and his legal team.
Lawyers for Mr McBrearty, who received a €1.5m settlement from the State after being wrongly considered a murder suspect, made the allegations in a letter to the commission.
The Irish Independent has learned that Mr Justice Nial Fennelly has asked Mr McBrearty to make a statement to the inquiry, which is investigating revelations that non-999 phone calls were routinely recorded in certain garda stations over a 30-year period.
However, the judge has ruled out seeking to widen his terms of reference to include many of the Donegal county councillor's allegations. He said it would not be feasible and would greatly enlarge the task of the commission, which has been ongoing for two years.
Although the Morris Tribunal into garda corruption in Donegal was previously informed of the alleged recording of phone calls between prisoners and their solicitors, it did not inquire into the claims.
In a letter to the Fennelly Commission, lawyers for Mr McBrearty raised the issue again and outlined further concerns about alleged garda activity. They said Mr McBrearty was concerned that phone calls between himself and his legal team while he was in custody at Letterkenny Garda Station in 1996 may have been intercepted.
The letter said he was also concerned that face-to-face conversations may have been recorded. It said Mr McBrearty feared there may also have been electronic surveillance of him and his legal team at places other than the garda station.
It was claimed that lawyers who acted for Mr McBrearty had separately expressed concerns about possible electronic surveillance of their phones.
Contacted by the Irish Independent, Mr McBrearty criticised the "narrow" terms of reference of the commission.
He said he did not believe it should report solely to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, but should report to the Oireachtas instead.
The Morris Tribunal found that gardaí had attempted to frame Mr McBrearty and his cousin Mark McConnell for the murder of cattle dealer Richie Barron in October 1996.
Neither man had any involvement in his death. It later transpired that Mr Barron had not been murdered, but had most likely died in a hit and run.