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Shatter's move is endorsement of top garda's role

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter effectively pre-empted any action against the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and other senior officers over the handling of the drug-trafficker and informant Kieran Boylan last November when he granted a two-year extension to the commissioner's service.

Announcing the extension, Mr Shatter gave a ringing endorsement to Commissioner Callinan's "invaluable" role.

He extended his commissionership from August this year, when Commissioner Callinan reaches the usual retirement age of 60, until August 2015.

This would have been in the knowledge that in his former positions as chief superintendent and head of the Crime and Security division and subsequently assistant commissioner in charge of National Support Services, Commissioner Callinan was the most senior officer in charge of the unit that was running Kieran Boylan, a drug trafficker with convictions here and in Britain, as a protected informant.

No action will be taken against any gardai arising from last week's report of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission which failed to establish any significant wrongdoing other than the alleged withholding of information from the Ombudsman's investigators.

Gardai robustly denied the withholding of information allegation by the Ombudsman with one source saying garda headquarters had supplied "a truck load" of documentation and claimed that the Ombudsman's office spent much of the four years investigating the case on a "fishing expedition".

The minister's endorsement of the commissioner and the finding of the Director of Public Prosecutions last month that no charges should arise out of the Ombudsman's report has substantially damaged the Ombudsman's office whose four-year investigation was the longest and costliest since the office was set up in 2006.

The Ombudsman's demands in its report that its investigators be given access to garda intelligence files are unlikely to be met, according to sources, as these files contain material on people whose lives are at risk from organised criminals and republican terror groups.

In December last year, just after the minister extended Commissioner Callinan's leadership, the Ombudsman submitted its report to the Director of Public Prosecutions which found last month there was no evidence in the document to substantiate charges.

Senior detectives were privately delighted that the Ombudsman's report had effectively been dumped. They pointed out that the handling of informants, including those who were actively involved in crime, was the only way to infiltrate and tackle organised crime gangs.

The Garda Ombudsman investigation began four years ago after reports emerged that an informant working for one branch of the Gardai, the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NBCI), was still free despite having been caught with €1.75m worth of cocaine and heroin at a transport yard in Co Louth in October 2005.

The seizure and arrest of Kieran Boylan had been made by the Garda National Drugs Bureau (GNDB), apparently unaware that he was a high-level informant for NBCI and had led NBCI to several major drugs hauls, including one in Co Meath with a value of more than €20m.

The Ombudsman said it had "grave concerns" at the handling and management of informants, "both historic and current" and that the level of co-operation by gardai was "highly unsatisfactory" and had a "significant detrimental impact" on its investigation.

It said it was not recommending disciplinary action over the alleged withholding of documents against any gardai because it believed their actions were known by superiors.

Commissioner Callinan was also said to be angered at the fact that he was not given sufficient time to prepare a considered response to the Ombudsman's report.

In cases of public inquiries and tribunals, people who were the subject of reports were generally given a month to respond before any public statements were issued, garda sources pointed out.

The commissioner is expected to take a number of weeks preparing his response and once this is completed it will go to the Ombudsman and Mr Shatter.

Irish Independent