Friday 23 August 2019

Garda body hires security firm to sweep offices after 'leak of confidential data'

SECURITY ISSUE: Pat Ennis, general secretary of the GRA. Picture: Frank McGrath
SECURITY ISSUE: Pat Ennis, general secretary of the GRA. Picture: Frank McGrath
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The general secretary of the Garda Representative Association hired a private security firm to conduct a "sweep" of the offices because he suspected confidential information contained in documents in his office had been leaked.

Pat Ennis notified the governing body of the association representing frontline gardai that a "security" issue had arisen and promised to furnish a report on the matter at their next meeting in September.

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Members of the central executive committee were surprised by the disclosure, according to sources familiar with the meeting. The sources said that while Mr Ennis did not elaborate on the security issue or on the suspected leak, he did refer to a "sweep". That left some gardai with the impression their headquarters was to be swept for bugging devices - a claim that has been dismissed this weekend by the GRA.

Following questions from the Sunday Independent, a GRA spokesman said this weekend that Mr Ennis hired a security company to carry out a desk-based sweep of the offices, because of his suspicions that information from documents on his desk had been leaked to a third party.

The private security firm is understood to have provided a report to the GRA that makes number of recommendations and this will be presented to the Central Executive Committee in September.

Sources said the sweep has raised concerns among some gardai that an external security firm should be employed by a representative association to conduct a sweep of offices that are used by working gardai.

The Sunday Independent understands that several executive council members later notified their local committees of the reported "security issue" because they felt the matter was concerning and unusual. One council member notified the local branch that a "security firm had been employed to come in to check for devices on the fifth floor of Phibsborough Tower", according to the source.

"I have no doubt that the manner of the message and the way it was delivered has caused confusion and raised more questions than it answers," said another source.

The "desk-based" security sweep of the GRA ordered by the general secretary occurred against a backdrop of change in the association for frontline gardai in recent years. A report by Ampersand management consultants, published last year, found the organisation to be "dysfunctional" with archaic systems and poor government. It also revealed the GRA's administrative expenses of €2.79m in 2016.

A statement to the Sunday Independent - tagged "clean desk policy" - said the GRA has been implementing a wide range of new governance measures, and new policies, procedures and protocols which will be, or already have been implemented.

It continued: "While the GRA should not be required to respond to media inquiries intruding into the normal business of running a membership organisation, we can confirm that services in respect of data security have been, and will continue to be engaged, as and when required. For instance in May, we engaged a service to advise on GDPR compliance in respect of desk and secure storage."

Sunday Independent

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