Saturday 27 December 2014

Government to review role and structure of GSOC – Kenny

Calls for independent judicial inquiry if Dail committee fails to get answers

Published 17/02/2014 | 02:30

Enda Kenny and fellow Castlebar Mitchels fans at O'Moore Park in Portlaoise

Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night signalled that the Government will examine the role and structure of the Garda Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and its relationship with the Garda Siochana in the wake of the 'bugging' saga.

"I hope that, as the GSOC now say 'we want to move on here', but move on with a sense of a conclusion to this and where there is that sense of belief and integrity in both organisations.

"Obviously the Government will review how the process has happened and how the structure actually lives up to what it is supposed to do," he said.

Mr Kenny expressed an expectation that the GSOC bugging affair can be resolved.

"Clearly Minister Shatter is very willing to go before the committee on Wednesday and I hope they have a really good engagement there and issues that are outstanding or issues that need to be cleared up can be cleared up," he said.

Mr Kenny stressed the importance of the relationship between GSOC and An Garda Siochana.

"There certainly has to be a very strong working relationship between them, of course. Obviously, you know, personalities are different in so many walks of life. But I think the most recent statements, both from GSOC and from the Garda Commissioner, are pointing in that direction. It is a very strong element of a working relationship to do their respective jobs," he said.

However, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore echoed calls from several Labour ministers over the weekend that Mr Shatter must use his appearance at the Oireachtas Public Service Oversight and Petitions Committee to clarify outstanding issues of concern.

"I agree, there is a degree of confusion about all of this," he said.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte and junior trade minister Joe Costello have criticised the handling of the GSOC affair.

CONCERNS

"I am surprised (Mr Shatter) didn't inform the Dail that GSOC had set up a public interest inquiry to examine whether they were placed under surveillance by gardai," Mr Costello said.

"The justice minister will obviously now have to go before a Dail committee and explain his actions," he added.

There were also renewed calls yesterday for the establishment of an independent judicial inquiry.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said an inquiry will be needed should Mr Shatter fail to address concerns at the committee. Ms Bacik suggested former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan would be a suitable candidate to head up such an inquiry.

Speaking on RTE Radio, Ms O'Loan described the current structures governing GSOC as "totally inadequate".

She also criticised the fact that the Garda Commissioner is not subject to GSOC. She added that despite public expressions of outrage, it is conceivable that the gardai would want to conduct surveillance on the offices of GSOC.

"Police may wish to listen to what you (as commissioner) are doing . . . You have to keep an open mind," she said.

Fianna Fail's Justice spokesman Niall Collins led calls from the opposition for establishment of an inquiry. He is to bring a private members' bill later this week, which would see the Garda Commissioner brought under the remit of GSOC.

The Reform Alliance group of Fine Gael exiles, led by Lucinda Creighton, said the latest revelations "reinforce the need for a judicial-led inquiry" while the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said an inquiry was needed to "staunch the erosion of public trust".

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan yesterday confirmed he raised concerns with GSOC about "sensitive leaks" to a journalist from the organisation last year. Commissioner Callinan, whose fractious relationship with the garda oversight body surfaced last week, said a series of articles over a "protracted period of time" aroused concerns.

In a separate statement, GSOC has said that it wants to "move on" from the bugging controversy. It said it wanted to focus on the work it was set up to do.

Fionnan Sheahan and Daniel McConnell

Irish Independent

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