THE CABINET today agreed to appoint a high court judge to lead an investigation into the ongoing bugging affair at the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
Ministers decided that the such an approach is now required following a series of new and damaging revelations in recent days.
It's understood that a retired high court judge, the identity of whom is not decided, will be appointed to lead the probe.
"This affair is becoming incredibly damaging, it was felt that the best option now is to leave it in the hands of a judge," a senior government source told independent.ie.
The Oireachtas justice committee will be asked to review the legislation governing GSOC with a view to changing the law.
A Government source said the investigation is being set up to bring clarity to the issue.
The Government made the surprise decision to set up a special inquiry at its weekly meeting this afternoon - in a direct U-turn on what they have been saying for over a week.
A Government spokesman said the inquiry will be given a very short time frame and specific terms of reference.
No particular judge has yet been named but it is understood that government officials are sounding out likely candidates later this afternoon.
"The Government wants to bring clarity as quickly as possible to the situation and will seek to ensure there is full public confidence in both An Garda Siochana and the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission," a spokesman said.
The decision comes ahead of a Dail debate this evening on opposition calls for an independent inquiry into allegations which surfaced 10 days ago that GSOC had been put under surveillance last year.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter was due to appear before an Oireachtas Committee tomorrow to answer questions on the controversy. This follows evidence at the same committee last week by the three members of the GSOC.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said he and his force will "co-operate fully" with the Judge's examination.
He said he welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Justice, Equality & Defence Alan Shatter TD of the Cabinet's decision to appoint the retired High Court Judge.
The Judge, who has not yet been named, will enquire into all matters of relevance in regards to the issues of controversy and concern relating to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission.