Friday 20 April 2018

No right of reply for GSOC on State's 'bugging' probe

Mr Justice John Cooke
Mr Justice John Cooke
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

THE Garda Ombudsman was not given a right of reply to the Government-ordered investigation into allegations of bugging in its headquarters, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny received a copy of the highly anticipated report on the controversy late on Friday. It will be reviewed by Cabinet before publication.

A Department of Justice spokeswoman last night said Minister Frances Fitzgerald would discuss the report with the Taoiseach today and that it would go before Cabinet "as soon as possible".

Retired judged John Cooke was appointed to investigate the scandal when a political row broke out between the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) and the then Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

After weeks of delay, on Friday Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed that his office had received Mr Cooke's report.

He said: "I want to see it and read it, obviously. I'll see that it is deliberated on by Government in the shortest time and published, as we've committed to do already."

It is understood that Mr Cooke met with officials from GSOC in recent weeks but has not given it a copy of his report.

The terms of reference for Mr Cooke's inquiry do not oblige him to provide for a right of reply but, given the complicated nature of the report, it was believed he may make such an offer.

Fianna Fail justice spokesman Niall Collins yesterday called on the Taoiseach to immediately publish the report as a "matter of priority".

"The revelations about surveillance of the Garda Ombudsman's office and the Government's initial handling of these revelations severely knocked public confidence in our justice system," he said.

Mr Cooke's report followed revelations that GSOC hired UK counter-surveillance firm Verrimus to investigate potential security threats in its Dublin city-centre office.

During its security sweep, the company identified three areas that were susceptible to breaches, including an unknown UK 3G network, along with a wifi device and a telephone in GSOC chairman Simon O'Brien's office.

When the scandal first broke in February, Mr Shatter told the Dail there was no evidence of surveillance and dismissed news reports as "baseless innuendo".

However, Mr O'Brien disputed this and told an Oireachtas Committee he believed his office may have been under surveillance.

Mr Shatter then commissioned a review of the Verrimus report, which he claimed proved there was no security threat.

Mr Cooke's investigation has been described as "robust" by those close to the inquiry. He met and spoke with officials from Verrimus throughout the course of his investigation.

A Verrimus spokeswoman told the Sunday Independent it provided Mr Cooke with its original report, along with contemporaneous logs, evidence, photographs, details of equipment, investigation processes and statements.

Sunday Independent

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