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S Hutch ignores the media as he leaves court . SAM BOAL/PA WIRE/PA IMAGES

Calls for external investigation after GSOC officer allegedly attended Gerard Hutch party

Justice Minister Simon Harris said yesterday that it is a “serious matter which needs to be investigated”.

REVELATIONS AT THE Garda Ombudsman office need an external investigation, gardaí representative bodies have said.

It has emerged that an experienced investigator with the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) resigned after disclosing that he was at a party Gerry Hutch attended last week.

The gathering was held on Monday after Hutch was found not guilty of the murder of David Byrne, who was shot at a crowded boxing weigh-in event at the Regency Hotel in Dublin on 5 February 2016.

GSOC has launched an internal investigation.

“That investigation is being considered by GSOC, so it would not be appropriate for me to comment on it at this time,” Justice Minister Simon Harris said.

I have requested a report from the chairperson of GSOC, which I expect to receive in the coming days.

However Garda representative bodies have said an internal investigation is not sufficient.

Antoinette Cunningham, general secretary of the Association of Garda Sergeants & Inspectors (AGSI), said members are very concerned at the situation.

“We will be writing to the Minister for Justice tomorrow seeking an urgent meeting with him to express our very serious concerns,” she told RTE Radio’s This Week programme today.

“I think it takes us back to the question of who oversees GSOC – who watches the watchdog?

“We know they’re an independent statutory body to deal with complaints made against An Garda Síochána but they themselves have to be above reproach in doing that work.

“While I know the Minister for Justice said he was awaiting a report, we were very strong in our association in saying that a realistic degree of separation now has to exist between any report that GSOC might conduct and this all has to be externalised for there to be any credibility around what may or what might evolve here.

‘Public trust’

“Public trust and public confidence in this body is hugely important, not only for members of An Garda Síochána, the members that we have that are the subject of ongoing investigations, but the public generally need to have trust and confidence in GSOC and in the work they do, and so a body looking into itself in the way GSOC are suggesting they might do, that wouldn’t be satisfactory as far as we are concerned.”

Brendan O’Connor, president of the Garda Representative Association (GRA), also expressed concern.

“This raises many fundamental questions about the operation of GSOC and concerns that the Garda Representative Association have had from its inception,” he said.

“We need to have complete confidence in the oversight mechanisms that are in place.”

He said it is “highly inappropriate” for the GSOC to carry out an internal investigation into the matter.

Labour TD Aodhan O’Riordain backed the call for an external inquiry.

“I’ve written to the minister asking either for a retired judge or for senior counsel to undertake an investigation,” he said.