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Nicola Anderson: In this strange murky world questions lead to more questions


The Garda Ombudsman Commission office on Dublin's Abbey Street

The Garda Ombudsman Commission office on Dublin's Abbey Street

The Garda Ombudsman Commission office on Dublin's Abbey Street

IF this was a 1930s film noir, this mess would have been well cleared up by now.

The bug would have been discovered neatly concealed in the lampshade, the phone wrenched from its socket and the shady culprit apprehended and swiftly dispatched.

But Raymond Chandler never had to contend with the 21st century and its tiresomely and conveniently invisible technology.

A mammoth four-hour session with the key members of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission might have been expected to furnish answers.

While fielded by a committee so obscure that even seasoned political pundits had forgotten it existed, nevertheless, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions managed to ask questions. Plenty of them.

Some answers were indeed provided to the more minor of the queries – but the real questions, the murkiest, most mysterious ones, remained unanswered.

In fact, the questions seemed to spawn still more questions. A situation to which GSOC appear to have reconciled themselves.

They refused to countenance the fact that they might have been "bugged". Too old-fashioned, scoffed GSOC chairman  Simon O'Brien at Michael Healy Rae's bandying around of the film noir terminology.

However had they been placed under surveillance? "Probably," he cautiously conceded.

He told the committee that he "didn't want to go there", in terms of asking who might have been responsible for the bugging, or rather, surveillance.

As far as GSOC is concerned, this case is closed.

"We have investigated this matter and have closed the investigation, which was conducted professionally," Mr O'Brien categorically stated at about 8 o'clock last night in a voice understandably weary with fatigue.

The real nub of the question, at least as far as GSOC seems to be concerned, is not who carried out the surveillance but who leaked the report that revealed they had been under surveillance.

GSOC has launched an internal investigation and Mr O'Brien intends to find out who. He appears to suspect an internal mole amongst his staff of 85 members.

This, frankly, is in-house trivia that does not concern the rest of us.

How the report got out is irrelevant.

The contents are rather more of concern – especially when it relates to matters of potential criminality lurking in spotless places, or perhaps even of national security.

It had been a long afternoon that had dragged into night. The committee, rather confusingly, voted against themselves getting the right to seek clarifications at the end of the meeting.

But for a committee so choc-a-block with colourful characters, it was inevitable that this discussion would fall short of concise.

After it was all over, Mick Wallace and Clare Daly left, complaining bitterly about the unhealthy fug of the room.

It wasn't the air, but the growing murkiness of the atmosphere that was the problem.

Irish Independent