Friday 26 December 2014

Senior Ombudsman official is suspected of information leaks

Published 13/02/2014 | 02:30

Garda Siochana Ombudsman chairman Simon O'Brien (right), Kieran Fitzgerald and Carmel Foley arrive at Leinster House
Garda Siochana Ombudsman chairman Simon O'Brien (right), Kieran Fitzgerald and Carmel Foley arrive at Leinster House

A SENIOR official at the Garda Ombudsman Commission is the prime suspect for information leaks, which led to the setting up of an internal investigation and a security sweep of phones and other devices in a bid to find the mole. But it is believed that a more junior member of the staff may also be involved.

This junior official is thought to have been used as a conduit in some cases to circulate information, which was meant to be confidential and should not have been in the public domain.

The current internal investigation is not focusing solely on the latest leak about bugging, but is also looking at several other disclosures concerning sensitive inquiries being carried out by Ombudsman teams over the past couple of years.

Those concerned a number of high-profile cases involving members of An Garda Siochana.

Commission chairman Simon O'Brien told the Oireachtas oversight committee last night that a maximum of seven people within his organisation had access to the report which formed the basis for the latest leak. He confirmed that he was now conducting an internal inquiry into that leak.

Mr O'Brien said he had ordered a security 'sweep' because internal business was getting into the public domain.

His assertion contradicts the version of events given by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Justice Minister Alan Shatter to the Dail on Tuesday, when they said it was just a "routine" security sweep.

The Ombudsman Commission chairman also said he suspected that his organisation's Dublin headquarters were "under some form of surveillance" and that he had at one stage suspected members of An Garda Siochana.

But he also paid tribute to Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, with whom he met for two hours on Tuesday, and to the gardai generally.

He said that he and Mr Callinan had agreed to work through their organisations' difficulties together and he appreciated that recent events had angered Mr Callinan.

"Had I been the Garda Commissioner, I would have been furious," Mr O'Brien said.

'OUTRAGED'

Mr O'Brien spent three hours answering questions before an Oireachtas committee. He repeated his apology for not alerting the Justice Minister to the surveillance report findings last September/October.

"We have no evidence that An Garda Siochana was surveilling our organisation," he said, emphatically. He had no wish to impugn the gardai.

The commission chairman said he was "outraged" that the report of the British security consultants had been leaked to a Sunday newspaper.

The committee last night said it would contact GSOC requesting the un-edacted reports by security company Verrimus. It also said it would invite the Justice Minister to address the committee.

Three concerns had emerged from the security 'sweep'. The first was a wi-fi device in the GSOC boardroom.

The second was concern about the security of a conference call telephone in Mr O'Brien's office. A third issue was fear that a device could have been used to scan for UK numbers outside the building.

Fears about surveillance led to himself and the two other commissioners, Kieran FitzGerald and Carmel Foley, to abandon mobile conversations.

Tom Brady and John Downing

Irish Independent

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