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“I don’t know what ‘anomalies’ are” — Howlin on GSOC findings

Ministers are being briefed by Alan Shatter this morning, following his meeting yesterday with the Garda Ombudsman Commission.

Brendan Howlin
Brendan Howlin
Image: Photocall Ireland

Updated at 9.55am

MINISTER FOR PUBLIC Expenditure Brendan Howlin has said he’s “very concerned” about the developing controversy surrounding alleged bugging at the Garda Ombudsman Commission.

Howlin said he was  ”anxiously waiting” Jusice Minister Alan Shatter’s briefing on the situation, and raised questions as to what GSOC meant when it said ‘anomolies’ were found in its communications systems.

GSOC met with Shatter at the Department of Justice yesterday, after it was reported at the weekend that the police watchdog’s Dublin HQ was bugged last year.

In a statement released after that meeting, GSOC said that “three technical and electronic anomalies” that could not be “conclusively explained” were found following an investigation which concluded on 17 December last.

The agency said it regretted not bringing the matter to the attention of the Minister sooner, but that it was satisfied its databases were not compromised.

Speaking on his way in to this morning’s Cabinet meeting, Howlin said it still had to be established “was there bugging or was there not?”

Regarding the statement released last night, Howlin said “maybe ‘anomalies’ means something to other people but I don’t know.”

“There should be a very clear answer to a very clear question — was there a suspicion that somebody was about to bug  or in the process of bugging the independent watchdog for the Garda Síochána?

“If so, let’s have all the facts on that. What did the investigation that they carried out from this British group unveil?”

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said it was important there was clarity on the issue, and that the matter be dealt with in a calm way, adding:

“We don’t need to jump three or four fences at a time.”

He declined to answer one reporter’s question on whether he knew what was meant by the term ‘anomalies’ in the context of the GSOC statement.

Cabinet members are due to be briefed on yesterday’s meeting with GSOC by Alan Shatter this morning.

Committee

Chairman of the Public Service Oversight Committee Pádraig McLochlainn said that if it emerged GSOC had been bugged, further investigation of the issue would be needed.

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The Garda Ombudsman Commission is due to appear before the panel of TDs and senators tomorrow to answer questions on what happened.

McLochlainn, a Sinn Féin TD, suggested an independent organisation may need to be brought in to carry out any additional inquiry needed.

“We’re in unknown territory, because the Garda Obmudsman — which is meant to watch the watcher — apparently has been spied upon,” the deputy told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“If they do confirm that ‘yes, we were spied upon’ then the report from the consultancy company would need to be looked at.

“We may have an issue here where we need to find some international body to investigate this.”

First posted at 9.15am

Related: GSOC confirms ‘electronic anomalies’ found, and regrets not disclosing it

Taoiseach: Details of bugging controversy should be made available for ‘public analysis’ >

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Daragh Brophy

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