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Wednesday 17 January 2018

Former ministers were not aware of garda recordings

Former ministers 'were not aware' of recordings

Nora Owen
Nora Owen
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

TWO former justice ministers – in government during the time of secret recordings to and from garda stations – have insisted they knew nothing of the illegal activity taking place during their tenure.

Nora Owen and Michael McDowell said they were completely in the dark about the covert practice which began in the 1980s and continued until last November.

Ms Owen, a former Fine Gael minister, told the Irish Independent that news of such systematic malpractice in stations across the country had come completely out of the blue.

She was justice minister from 1994 to 1997, a time when the reported practice of phone bugging was widespread.

"I've no knowledge whatsoever of any taping system," she said.

"I was never informed, never briefed, never heard or knew that there was an ongoing, consistent taping of phones in garda stations.

"That is other than 999 calls, which one automatically assumed would be recorded," she said.

She also agreed that such is the gravity of recent developments that "the time has come" for the establishment of a new independent garda authority.

"In the fullness of time in any institution you must constantly be reviewing how things operate and whether there is a need to change the mechanisms. Governments down through the years have done that.''

She said she had introduced a courts service because existing systems had been in place for 70 years and had become outdated.

"A garda authority is a perfectly valid way to move, and to give a face to a body, which will be between the minister and the Commissioner.

"That's what people expect now,'' Ms Owen said.

Similarly, Mr McDowell said he had "never heard of it" when asked if he had been informed at any stage of the taping allegations which took place during his time at the helm of the Justice department.

He added that he's "not going to get involved in any statements about these kind of things" when asked if he welcomed the establishment of a new independent garda authority.

Former Fianna Fail justice minister Dermot Ahern was not contactable last night.

Irish Independent

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