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Fitzgerald has confidence in GSOC, says Cooke report is 'food for thought' for Shatter's critics

The Minister for Justice was speaking after the publication of the report into allegations that the offices of the Garda Ombudsman were bugged.

Frances Fitzgerald and Alan Shatter (File photo)
Frances Fitzgerald and Alan Shatter (File photo)
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

JUSTICE MINISTER FRANCES Fitzgerald has said she has confidence in the board members of the Garda Ombudsman (GSOC) despite the publication of a report which finds no evidence to back claims that their offices were placed under surveillance.

She also said that the report published tonight will be “food for thought” for those who engaged in “heated discussion” at the time the bugging controversy arose when her predecessor Alan Shatter was still in office.

She was speaking after the publication of the report by retired High Court judge John Cooke into allegations that the headquarters of GSOC were bugged.

The report found no evidence to support the proposition that the offices of the Garda Ombudsman were placed under surveillance and much less that it was carried out by members of An Garda Siochána.
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Acting on the recommendations of the report, Fitzgerald said that the new bill to reform the workings of GSOC will clarify the legal basis under which it can initiate a public interest investigation as well as the threshold for such probes.

Fitzgerald noted that the report understood the concerns of GSOC members and that they acted in good faith.

“I do have confidence in the board of GSOC. GSOC are an important body,” she said.

The Minister said it was important to remember that there are “no findings of negligence or no finding of facts” against the members of the Ombudsman Commission.

Shatter

On whether the report was vindication for her predecessor Alan Shatter, who said there was “no evidence at all” that GSOC was bugged at the height of the controversy in February, Fitzgerald said the document provides “food for thought”.

She said: “This report would give food for thought in relation to the way comments… there was very heated discussion at the time, as you remember. And certainly I would say we now have an evidence based report and I think everybody who made comment at the time should analyse this report and review how they reacted to it at the time. “

Fitzgerald said that the report underlined the need for “a new culture of cooperation” between GSOC and the gardaí, saying: ”The basic goal is clearly that there is confidence in the structures that are there, that’s critical – that confidence is built.”

She said it was “extremely important for justice in this country” that there is confidence in GSOC and the gardaí.

Asked about the fact that GSOC has only just received a copy of the report, Fitzgerald insisted that the organisation was given it at “the appropriate time”.

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The Minister also thanked the retired judge for the “very comprehensive, measured and evidence-based report”.

In the first opposition reaction, Fianna Fáil called for the judge to go before the Oireachtas Justice Committee to discuss his findings.

“Instead of relying on Government spin, I believe we now need to give Mr Justice Cooke an opportunity to present his report to the all-party Oireachtas Committee on Justice,” the party’s justice spokesperson Niall Collins said.

“This will allow a full and open examination of the findings and recommendations and a frank discussion of the process.” 

Cooke Report: There is no evidence that GSOC was bugged by gardaí

Column: The #GSOC debacle is a war of spin

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Hugh O'Connell

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