Monday 24 October 2016

Editorial: Hard to heal rift between gardai and watchdog

Published 12/06/2014 | 02:30

The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission offices in Dublin
The Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission offices in Dublin

THE inquiry into the so-called GSOC scandal carried out by retired High Court Judge John Cooke has found no evidence that the offices of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) was bugged, let alone that such surveillance was the work of the gardai. "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 Siochana," it says.

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Despite Judge Cooke's robust and decisive findings, there are still many commentators who refuse to accept these conclusions, preferring to believe in conspiracy theories and hold firm to the belief that the Terms of Reference for the inquiry were not broad enough. However, it is clear that Mr Cooke examined all the evidence and despite the controversy that dragged on for weeks, decided that there was nothing in the allegations.

Indeed, he went a step further when he found that there was a "mandatory obligation" on GSOC to inform the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, and the Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan of its suspicions, something GSOC failed to do until the matter was already in the public domain.

While the GSOC affair did not lead directly to the resignation of either the minister or the commissioner, it certainly led to a legal and political frenzy that engulfed both of them, the whistleblower controversy and the elements that eventually led to their downfall.

Those who refuse to accept the Cooke Report wonder why the retired judge found that no surveillance took place "much less that it was carried out by An Garda Siochana". The first suggestion of possible Garda involvement in bugging the offices of GSOC actually came from that organisations chairman, Mr Simon O'Brien, after his meeting with Mr Shatter on February 10 last, when he said he had "no evidence" of Garda misconduct.

Mr O'Brien now believes that "questions still remain" despite Mr Cooke's robust conclusions, because the judge was unable to rule out one mysterious 'anomaly' in GSOC's own investigation. The new Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, is now looking forward to a response to Mr Cooke's report from GSOC.

It will take a great deal to repair the distrust and downright suspicion that has existed between An Garda Siochana and the GSOC. While a healthy tension between the gardai and its oversight body is to be expected this whole affair turned it poisionous and that is not sustainable for either organisation.

Fabulous festival of football finally kicks off

The world has watched and waited and at last the games begin. Tonight at 9pm Irish time the World Cup gets under way in Brazil and millions of people around the globe will turn on their televisions to watch one of the great spectacles of our time. The World Cup is probably the world's greatest sporting competition, eclipsing even the older and more individualistic Olympic Games, because football is the most international and democratic team sport today. When the host country Brazil and Croatia tog out for the opening game in Sao Paulo it will be the start of a competition involving 32 countries playing 64 matches until just two remaining teams play on July 13 for the honour of claiming the crown of the world's greatest soccer nation.

Although soccer is big business, it remains a sport that anyone can play and, even the most unlikely, succeed in. All that is needed is a ball and whether a player comes from the favelas of Rio or the sporting academies of a top fee-paying school, all that matters on the field of play is talent.

The fact that these highly-paid stars are playing for the honour and glory of their countries adds immeasurably to the rivalry of the occasion. Sadly Ireland will not be there this year, and so our hopes and dreams will follow others. But such support will be half-hearted and we can only hope that Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane will ensure that the Boys in Green qualify in four years' time and give us something to really cheer about.

Irish Independent

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