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Wednesday 24 September 2014

GSOC bugging allegations led to 'difficult period' - Justice Minister

Published 19/06/2014 | 15:10

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Frances Fitzgerald
Frances Fitzgerald

JUSTICE Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said the allegations of bugging in the Garda Ombudsman’s headquarters published by the Sunday Times led to a “difficult period” for the watchdog and An Garda Siochana.

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Minister Fitzgerald also defended her predecessor Alan Shatter and called on members of the Oireachtas to reflect on their response to the former Justice Minister when the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) surveillance allegations first emerged.

She said the findings of retired judge John Cooke’s investigation into the alleged surveillance of GSOC’s office concur with Mr Shatter’s version of events.

Speaking during a Dail debate on the Cooke Report, the minister said the report will be discussed further by the Oireachtas Justice Committee.

“The Sunday Times claims of unlawful surveillance of GSOC, and the subsequent emergence of issues relating to the vulnerability of GSOC’s security systems, have led to a difficult period for GSOC and An Garda Siochana,” the minister added.

She said the Government commissioned Judge Cooke’s investigation so as to get the “clearest possible picture” of the circumstance surrounding the allegations surveillance.

Mr Shatter dismissed the allegations as “baseless innuendo” when the Sunday Time first published a story claiming “government level” surveillance was carried out on GSOC’s office.

The GSOC controversy was one of several garda scandals that led to his resignation.

Minister Fitzgerald said Judge Cooke’s report concurred with what Mr Shatter told the Dail in February.

“Former Minster Alan Shatter, at that time, made statements to the House and to the Oireachtas Joint Committee outlining the facts as he had been given them,” she said.

“Now that we have the Cooke Report, I believe members of this House should reflect on their responses to the then Minister.

 “Given  how  significantly ad item the results of the Cooke Report are with  what  the  then  Minister Alan Shatter told this House, it must give us all  cause  to  consider  the advantage of a measured and reflective response to significant issues such as these, rather than immediate judgement.”

However, Fianna Fail Justice Minister Niall Collins said there are still questions that need to be answered on the bugging allegations.

Mr Collins also claimed Mr Shatter made GSOC out to be villains rather than victims.

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