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Saturday 23 August 2014

Justice Minister expresses confidence in GSOC board - despite 'no bugging' finding

Published 10/06/2014 | 21:40

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Frances Fitzgerald
Frances Fitzgerald
New Minister Frances Fitzgerald
New Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has expressed confidence in the board of the Garda Ombudsman despite a finding that there was no evidence of bugging at the organisation's headquarters in Dublin.

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Welcoming the report by retired Judge John Cooke, Ms Fitzgerald said that government will now act on his recommendations.

She said the allegation of bugging caused deep concern within government and that the claims of surveillance warranted an independent investigation.

The allegation was first published in the Sunday Times.

"It is clear that the evidence does not support the proposition that actual surveillance of the kind asserted in the Sunday Times article took place and much less that it was carried out by members of the Garda Síochána," Ms Fitzgerald said.

The minister emphasised GSOC officials "acted in good faith", according to the report, and that there are no findings of facts against the Commission.

Asked if she has full confidence in the GSOC board in light of the report, Ms Fitzgerald replied: "I do have confidence in the board at GSOC. GSOC are an important body."

She added: "I do take note of what's in the Justice Cooke report in regard to strengthening legislation... I do note that GSOC did not report to the minister when they should have."

Ms Fitzgerald warned that there is a need for a new "culture of cooperation" between GSOC and the gardai.

"It is very important that everybody has confidence in the various organs of justice in this country," Ms Fitzgerald said.

The minister said she will now seek a full response to the report by both GSOC and acting garda commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan.

Asked whether the report was a vindication of her predecessor Alan Shatter, Ms Fitzgerald said the report will give "food for thought" for those who engaged in "heated discussion" on the issue of alleged surveillance.

After the allegations first surfaced, Mr Shatter said there was "no evidence at all" that the offices, located on Abbey Street, had been bugged.

But he said the government was proceeding with appointing an independent expert to examine all the issues raised.

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