A GARDA miniature recorder was used by Tanaiste Ray MacSharry to tape a conversation with a cabinet colleague about internal Fianna Fail issues and Charles Haughey's leadership.
The miniature recording device was supplied to Mr MacSharry in October 1982 by Deputy Commissioner Joe Ainsworth at the instruction of then Justice Minister Sean Doherty.
Documents released from the State archives revealed that Garda Commissioner Patrick McLaughlin was totally unaware of the provision of the recorder to Mr MacSharry. He only learned about it when asked about the controversy by Justice Minister Michael Noonan on January 18, 1983, after Fine Gael had taken office from FF.
But Mr McLaughlin also pointed out, in a letter to Mr Noonan, that "if we are requested to supply something to a government minister we have very little option but to comply".
In a cabinet briefing memo, Mr Noonan said that Mr Ainsworth received the call for the recorder from Mr Doherty in October 1982.
In response, he personally delivered the miniature recorder, a tape, a microphone and batteries to Mr MacSharry at his Merrion Street offices.
At the time, the Sligo TD was both Tanaiste and Finance Minister in Mr Haughey's government. Gardai were later asked to transcribe the recording that had been made.
"The transcript . . . is now in the possession of the Minister for Justice and has today been identified by Dr Martin O'Donoghue as being one made of a conversation between him and the then Minister for Finance, Mr MacSharry, and that he had not authorised the taping nor been aware that the conversation was being recorded."
Dr O'Donoghue had resigned as Education Minister in October 1982 after declining to support Mr Haughey in a leadership issue. The Dublin TD lost his seat in the general election staged just weeks after the Merrion Road meeting with Mr MacSharry took place.
No copy of the transcript was placed in the State archives.
However, Mr Noonan and then-attorney general, Peter Sutherland, read the transcript along with key department officials.
"The conversation transcribed related solely to party political issues concerning Fianna Fail and included nothing which could be thought to relate to matters of concern to the Garda Siochana," a memo dated January 20 revealed.