Saturday 21 April 2018

Watchdog accesses records of 50 people in Daly probe

GSOC snoops on phones of GPs, bankers

Clare Daly
Clare Daly
Deputy Clare Daly: complaint about alleged data breach. Photo: Tom Burke

Paul Williams

The private phone records of up to 50 people, none of whom are members of the gardaí or the media, are likely to have been secretly accessed by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) as part of an investigation into the arrest of independent TD Clare Daly, it emerged last night.

The Irish Independent has learned that a number of high-profile solicitors, doctors and senior bankers were amongst the large group whose call records were examined by GSOC without their knowledge.

Also understood to have been on the list is the phone of an official attached to a State agency which is involved in sensitive business dealings on behalf of the Government.

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The mobile phone records were scrutinised after GSOC discovered that they had been in regular contact with a serving garda who coaches their children at a local rugby club in his spare time.

Earlier this week the Irish Independent revealed that the respected detective garda was wrongly implicated in the leaks investigation after the watchdog first snooped on the phone records of a political journalist whose children he also coaches at the club.

The garda regularly phoned and texted the parents to arrange training times and alert them about upcoming matches.

GSOC told the garda that he was identified after they trawled through the calls and texts made to and from the phone of Senan Molony of the 'Irish Daily Mail'.

The ham-fisted enquiry began when Deputy Clare Daly lodged a complaint in which she alleged that gardaí had leaked details of her arrest for suspected drunk-driving on January 28, 2013. She was later found to be well below the drink drive limit.

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In her complaint, she said she had been contacted by a number of journalists the morning after the arrest, including Mr Molony.

GSOC investigators then accessed Mr Molony's phone and text data over a 48-hour period - 24 hours either side of Ms Daly's arrest - without the journalist's knowledge.

The Irish Independent understands the garda was wrongly identified as a suspect after the occupations of everyone who had been in contact with Mr Molony was cross-checked.

Sources close to the enquiry have revealed that GSOC then used their extensive powers to obtain the garda's phone records.

The personal registration information attached to each number contacted by the officer was then examined - including the names, addresses and professions of the owners - until the watchdog identified two further serving gardaí.

The phone records of the two officers were then accessed and also scrutinised without their knowledge.

The garda detective only became aware of the secret investigation when he was summoned to attend a meeting with GSOC on July 10 last year.

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Friends said that he was "shocked and stunned" when the watchdog revealed how they identified him and then accused him of leaking information about the Daly arrest. He was shown data print-outs from the phones belonging to himself and his wife.

A friend of the officer told the Irish Independent: "He quickly cleared up the issue by explaining to them that he was coaching the journalist's children in a local club and had been in regular contact with all the parents informing them of training and upcoming matches."

"Then they quizzed him about contacts with two guards who are close friends and he would be in touch with them practically every day - it was clear that GSOC had added two and two and came up with 10," the friend added.

The sources have said that the officer is "devastated" by the intrusion into his personal life especially the fact that he had been a "suspect" for two and a half years before he was given a chance to clear his good name.

"The fact that the parents of the children the garda coaches were unwittingly dragged into this farce is also upsetting for him."

Irish Independent

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