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

Justice Minister Alan Shatter is meeting GSOC today following reports that a surveillance operation was used to hack into the police watchdog’s emails, wi-fi and phone systems.
Feb 10th 2014, 5:30 PM 12,475 111

Updated 5.30pm

JUSTICE MINISTER ALAN Shatter has met with members of the Garda Ombudsman Commission, as his Cabinet colleague Eamon Gilmore said earlier that details emerging of phone bugging at the police watchdog are “quite sinister”.

The meeting took place at the Department of Justice this afternoon to discuss claims that GSOC’s Dublin headquarters were bugged last year.

A statement from the Garda Ombudsman is expected later this evening.

The Sunday Times reported yesterday that a surveillance operation was used to hack into emails, wi-fi and phone systems at the Abbey Street building. It’s also claimed a speaker phone in a conference room was bugged.

Speaking to RTÉ this afternoon, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it is “very important” that details of what happened “be made available to the Minister for public analysis and for reporting to Cabinet tomorrow.

“It is important that we should understand on what grounds suspicions were determined in the first instance, who determined those suspicions, did the board discuss this and make arrangements for a company to assess whether or not interference in the communications system was had,” he said.

Kenny also pointed out that under the Garda Siochana Act the Ombudsman is required to “report unusual matters of exception importance” to the Minister for Justice.

‘Full report’

Shatter was said to be seeking a “full report” on what happened at the meeting earlier.

GSOC was expected to be asked to explain its decision to hire UK security company Verrimus to investigate if it had been placed under surveillance.

Commission members was also set to be asked why the Minister was not informed of the move, and why no complaint was made to gardaí at the time.

“I understand that Minister Shatter is going to brief us tomorrow on what is emerging on that,” Gilmore told reporters as he arrived for a meeting in Brussels.

“We’re seeing a lot of stories now about telephone conversations being bugged, and offices being bugged.

“I think we are going to have to deal with this. It’s unacceptable. It shouldn’t be happening, but I’d like to see what Minister Shatter has to tell us about it and what he knows about it.”

Cabinet members convene for their weekly meeting at Government Buildings tomorrow. No statement is expected from the Department until ministers have been briefed.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte was also asked about the issue this morning, and agreed that the story emerging seemed “somewhat sinister” given the “official role of the Garda Ombudsman in supervising and investigating the Garda Síochána”.

Rabbitte said he was “surprised by that” when asked to comment on the report that GSOC hadn’t previously reported the matter to the Minister, but stressed that it was important that they await Shatter’s briefing on the issue.

- additional reporting Hugh O’Connell

First published 1.43pm

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