THE GOVERNMENT WAS accused of a ‘frenzy’ against the Garda Siochána Ombudsman’s Commission by Micheál Martin in the Dáil today.
The Fianna Fáil leader made the accusation during Leader’s Questions, when speaking about the GSOC bugging controversy.
Martin put it to the Taoiseach that “all government seems to have done in response is develop a frenzy against the Ombudsman’s office”, adding it had “[turned the Ombudsman] into a villain as opposed to a victim”.
He also asked if the Taoiseach could establish an independent panel of inquiry to determine the truth around whether the office was bugged.
Martin then asked Enda Kenny about revelations contained in a transcript between Oliver Connolly, the confidential garda recipient, and whisteblower Maurice McCabe, but he was told he could not raise this issue.
The Taoiseach said that it is “very important that the people of the country have absolute confidence and faith in the integrity and credibility of the GSOC”.
He noted the statement made by the GSOC last night, which said that it was satisfied that its database was not compromised and that there was no evidence of garda misconduct.
The GSOC indicated yesterday that they found no evidence of electronic bugging and that the gardai were not involved in any way in a matter of misconduct.
The government were briefed on the issue this morning by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Shatter is due to make a statement to the house on the issue later this evening.
In addition, GSOC will appear before the Oireachtas Commission on Petitions and Oversight in a public session tomorrow. Kenny said he hoped that this will provide the clarity needed.
A government spokesperson said this afternoon there is “no definitive evidence of any unauthorised technical or electronic surveillance of GSOC offices” and added that the government has confidence in GSOC.
‘Very, very deep concerns’
While the government are not entitled to the report given to GSOC on the alleged bugging, the Minister for Justice has requested that the report be forwarded to him.
The GSCO indicated yesterday that they found no evidence of electronic bugging and that the gardai were not involved in any way in a matter of misconduct.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams agreed that there needs to be clarity, but said there were “very, very deep concerns” that the Ombudsman’s office was targeted.
He said that “the important question people have in response to the current scandal is was GSOC bugged and if so by whom”.
He said there was “no point in blaming the Garda Ombudsman as you did yesterday”.
‘Breakdown of trust’
Adams said that there has “clearly [been a] breakdown of trust between that office, Minister for Justice and Department of Justice”.
He added: “Isn’t it clear that an independent inquiry would resolve these matters in an urgent way?”
The Taoiseach said that the sweep at the GSOC building “was not dictated by any issue” but was part of a process of regular sweeps.
Adams also accused the Taoiseach of inaccurately quoting a specific sub-section of section 80 of the Garda Siochána act. He said that the Ombudsman was not bound to report the alleged bugging to Minister Shatter.
Adams also questioned if: “Following on the penalty points debacle, the whistleblowers controversy; doesn’t this current scandal highlight a worrying level of distrust between GSOC, the Garda Commissioner and Minister for Justice?”
Kenny said that he “respect[s] absolutely” the GSOC.