Thursday 22 August 2019

Three former Garda Commissioners interviewed about recorded garda station telephone conversations

Mr Justice Nial Fennelly. Picture: Collins Courts
Mr Justice Nial Fennelly. Picture: Collins Courts

Niall O'Connor

THREE former Garda Commissioners have been interviewed as part of the inquiry into the recording of telephone conversations in and out of garda stations, it has been revealed.

The Fennelly Commission today published its interim report into the recordings - the emergence of which sparked a political crisis and led to the departure of former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

Mr Justice Nial Fennelly has sought further time and more resources in order to complete the work of the Commission, which he described as "time consuming and labour intensive".

According to his interim report, which was published by Taoiseach Enda Kenny this evening, Mr Justice Fennelly intends to complete his work by the end of September 2016.

The judge says that there are 13 years worth of recorded telephone calls from 23 garda stations at his team's discretion. But he says listening to each and every phone recording is something "which is clearly beyond the scope of his Commission" and therefore discretion is being used.

Mr Justice Fennelly detailed his efforts to contact solicitor firms to establish whether telephone calls between solicitors and their clients were recorded and whether the content of the recordings have been used.

"The Commission considers this to be one of the most important elements of its work. Solicitor/Client confidentiality has long been regarded as a cornerstone of our legal and judicial system and any taint of impropriety on the part of An Garda Siochana would be extremely serious," the Commission states.

Over 500 phone numbers, both mobile and landline, have been obtained to date.

Records held by An Garda Siochana technicians are also being examined as part of the probe. Four former garda commissioners have provided statements to the commission, three of whom have given formal interviews.

The interim report also contains a section relating to the investigation into the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder.

The report states that over 45,000 recorded telephone calls to and from Bandon Garda station were examined by An Garda Siochana, but less than one per cent of them were considered relevant to the murder investigation.

Mr Justice Fennelly also details the additional resources required.

He says three additional junior counsel are needed to assist in the completion of the body of which, at a projected cost of €312,000. Another senior counsel is also required.

It's estimated that €17,150 will be spent on witnesses expenses, at an average cost of €330 per witness per day.

Mr Justice Fennelly previously produced a report on the events leading up to the departure of former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. The examination of phone call recordings is the other major part of his investigation.

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