Sunday 26 October 2014

This will be a battle of the 'techies'

Published 20/02/2014 | 02:30

IN THE end it may come down to a battle between what Alan Shatter called 'the techies' – the security companies Verrimus versus Rits, each apparently with expertise in preventing spying.

Verrimus has said there was "no definitive evidence" that the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) was under surveillance.

And RITS decided there was "no evidence at all" that the organisation was bugged.

But believe it or not, we are led to believe that there is some considerable distance between both positions.

One obvious reason is that Rits's more clear-cut conclusion was based on an assessment of the Verrimus report.

We wish we could swiftly outline why that should be. The real and continuing problem, however, is that this alleged GSOC bugging episode is among the most unsatisfactory items to come to prominence at Leinster House for very many years.

We must await the work of the High Court judge who has two months to unravel it – but he has his work cut out.

It all came into the public domain 11 days ago as a potentially explosive tilt between the gardai and their guardians.

Both sides have tried hard to keep that damaging conflict out of play – but with only some success.

Four more hours of sluggish but exhaustive questioning of Justice Minister Alan Shatter at the Public Oversight Committee yesterday brought another more benign theory, always present to some degree, into more prominence.

This is the possibility that it was all a big misunderstanding.

To quicken up, last summer GSOC boss, Simon O'Brien, briefed staff and two of them misunderstood him.

The misunderstanding was that they wrongly believed O'Brien to be saying a senior garda had GSOC confidential information.

The GSOC staff pair on that wrong basis briefed Verrimus, who had been hired to do a security sweep.

That led Verrimus to base their report on that wrong assumption. For now, that is just another theory which may in fullness of time be shown to be wholly or partially true, or false.

Mr Shatter told us many times yesterday that he was going to leave the heavy lifting on a final decision to the judge in charge.

The investigation will be largely a review of the reams of paper already generated.

But it will not be confined to that – the judge will also have the ability to speak to the various people involved.

The judge will also be pleased to learn that he will have technical back-up to guide him through this strange world of surveillance.

Irish Independent

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