REPORTS that the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission may have been electronically spied upon raise issues of the most serious concern to every citizen. Thus far our state of knowledge of this grievous matter raises far more questions than we can answer. We have been told that the Garda Ombudsman's premises have been spied upon with electronic listening devices. The allegations specifically relate to rooms used for sensitive discussions.
The Ombudsman's internet system has also apparently been compromised.
Most disturbing of all is the element of news reports which say that 'government-level' technology has been used.
The Garda Ombudsman has remained steadfastly silent on the matter.
The silence and lack of answers to salient questions compounds growing public disquiet. A pall of suspicion inevitably overhangs all of the public service given this very unsatisfactory state of affairs.
The nature of these early reports also poses some questions to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission itself. We need to know categorically what steps, if any, they took to inform the relevant authorities. Otherwise, we will need to know why they did not inform the authorities.
Last night the Irish Independent got no answer from the Ombudsman to 13 specific questions we asked on behalf of our readers.
The one real consolation so far in this distressing matter is that the Government has signalled that it will be given its most urgent attention. Justice Minister Alan Shatter has asked the Garda Ombudsman Commission for a full report.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said it will be dealt with at tomorrow's cabinet meeting with a report for ministers.
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore yesterday reasonably said that as a general rule no public official should be secretly spied upon and he, in common with all other citizens, admitted that he had no knowledge of the matter.
The public need answers as quickly as possible.
IT'S TIME FOR DEBATE ON ESSENTIAL FUNDING OF THIRD-LEVEL EDUCATION
THE prospect will strike terror into the heart of many parents juggling financial demands but the harsh reality is that third-level fees are heading back on to the political agenda. Today we report that the Irish Universities Association (IUA) is preparing to ramp up its case for increased investment in our third-level college system.
IUA chairman and Trinity College Dublin provost, Dr Paddy Prendergast, acknowledges that this is a very sensitive issue. But he argues that the third-level system needs another €500m per year on top of the current state yearly investment of €1.1bn.
Dr Prendergast further argues that this matter cannot be neglected much longer. He says a hard decision is needed on future funding sources for the academic year beginning in autumn 2016, a time when current transition year or Junior Certificate students should be headed to college.
For now the IUA is researching the situation in other developed countries and building towards a major symposium on the issue this coming September. Academic leaders argue that third-level investment is dangerously below par and the problems cannot be ignored much longer.
Most of us know how important top-flight third-level education is for the future of the Irish economy. But up to now, the political debate on this issue has not been renowned for its honesty.
The political timing of a decision in good time for autumn 2016 may pose particular challenges for the Education Minister and the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition. Tough decisions and bad news do not sit easily with impending elections.
But this time around we need a debate characterised by plain speaking aimed at meeting the needs of hard-pressed families and a third-level sector vital for all our futures.