THE GOVERNMENT HAS announced that a statutory Commission of Investigation is to look into new information about phone calls in and out of a large number of Garda stations being taped and recorded.
In a statement today, the government said that the implications of the matter are potentially so grave that a Commission of Investigation is warranted. It will be chaired by a senior serving or retired member of the judiciary.
The government has also confirmed the departure of the Garda Commissioner, the appointment of an interim successor and has agreed to reforms that will include the establishment of “an independent garda authority”.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil that the government has received information of tape recordings in “many garda stations” dating back to the 1980s.
He said he was made aware of the information at 6pm on Sunday by the Attorney General and spent all day yesterday and last night checking the “validity and veracity of the information”.
The government said it has learned that system has been in place “for many years” up until November of last year at “a large number of Garda stations “where incoming and outgoing calls were taped and recorded.
“The Government was informed of this new information at its meeting today,” the statement said, adding it was not clear why this system was in place.
The statement says that because the matters are before the courts it would not be appropriate to comment on the specific case.
Ahead of a full statutory Commission of Investigation, the government has said that it has asked “for a full, detailed report on all aspects of this matter” from the gardaí and the Department of Justice “so that an informed decision can be made on the legal and other consequences, with the assistance of the Attorney General”.
The terms of reference for the Commission of Investigation will be decided “shortly” once the government has a full report on the matter.
Here is the government’s statement in full:
At its meeting today, the Government considered a new and very serious issue relating to An Garda Síochána.
The implications of this matter are potentially of such gravity that the Government has decided to set up a statutory Commission of Investigation into this matter of significant public concern. It will be chaired by a senior serving or retired member of the Judiciary.
In the context of ongoing legal proceedings in a particular case, the Government has learned that a system was in place in a large number of Garda stations whereby incoming and outgoing telephone calls were taped and recorded. The Government was informed of this new information at its meeting today.
As the matter is before the Courts, it is not appropriate to make any further comment on the specific case.
From the information available, the practice of making recordings was in place for many years and was discontinued in November of 2013. It is not yet clear why this practice was in operation.
The Government is extremely concerned about this information.
The Government has asked for a full, detailed report on all aspects of this matter from An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice and Equality, so that an informed decision can be made on the legal and other consequences, with the assistance of the Attorney General.
The terms of reference for the Commission of Investigation will be decided shortly, once a full report on the circumstances has been made available to the Government.
The Government also decided to agree to the retirement of Mr Martin Callinan from the position of Commissioner of An Garda Síochána.
The Government thanked the Commissioner for his long and dedicated service to the State.
In accordance with the relevant provisions of the Garda Síochána Act, 2005, Deputy Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has been appointed as interim Garda Commissioner.
Arrangements will be put in place for an open competition for a permanent appointment to the post of Garda Commissioner as soon as is practicable.
The Government reiterated its commitment to its extensive programme of reform, including the passing of the Government legislation to protect whistleblowers and to extend freedom of information.
It also reiterated its commitment to the reform of Garda oversight and accountability. This will include the establishment of an independent Garda authority, which is appropriate to Ireland’s needs and which will maintain appropriate democratic accountability to the Oireachtas.
The Government will bring forward the full detail of its comprehensive reform proposals in the coming months.
This will be done following the completion of the current inquiries by Judge Cooke and Mr Guerin, the forthcoming hearings by the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality and the Review of the Garda Síochána which is currently underway under the Haddington Road Agreement.
First published 2.55pm