Thursday 18 July 2019

AG's warning not to appeal over tapping of journalists

Stock photo
Stock photo

Ralph Riegel

The Attorney General's Office warned the government that the State would be best served by admitting the constitutional rights were breached of two journalists whose phones were tapped.

In subsequent legal advice, attorney general John Rogers also advised the State should not appeal either its liability or the settlement to the Supreme Court, given the potential implications.

The revelation came as secret papers were released in the 1987 State Archive about the 1981/82 phone tapping scandal.

Journalists Geraldine Kennedy and Bruce Arnold had their phones tapped on the instructions of then justice minister Seán Doherty.

Once the phone recordings came to light, legal action was initiated by the journalists.

On October 15, 1986, the Attorney General's Office gave legal advice to the government.

"Highlighting this political conflict (political security considerations against the right of journalists to conduct their profession) would, no doubt, turn the case into a most sensational one," an official advised.

"The State, in defending the action, would put itself in a position of maintaining a justification for the phone taps while having formally admitted that they were improper."

And on February 9, 1987, attorney general John Rogers advised against any challenge to the settlement.

"In my opinion there should not be an appeal on either liability or quantum," he wrote.

Mr Rogers also said he felt it was unlikely the court would reduce the IR£20,000 award involved.

Irish Independent

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