Bugged by attitudes, shattered by scandal, and no one listening

Who’s bugging whom?

That was the question which dominated a confusing day in the Dáil when everyone was all ears, but no one was really listening — or were they?

Enda Kenny was clearly bugged by the attitude of the Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), but the Taoiseach had a strangely relaxed attitude as to whether the body charged with policing the police had itself been put under electronic surveillance.

Mr Kenny again turned attack dog against the Garda watchdog and again completely misrepresented the law governing GSOC, when he again insisted they had an obligation to relay such serious matters to the justice minister — even though the relevant legislation merely states they have discretion to do so if they wish to.

To get this key matter of law wrong once smacked of incompetence, to repeat it a day later suggested something more sinister was at play.

But while Mr Kenny tried to divert attention into the blind alley of why GSOC did not tell the justice minister they had taken the extraordinary step of sweeping their offices for bugs — during which they found “three electronic anomalies” — the real question remained: Was there an attempt to bug them? And, if so, by whom and for what reason?

In a display of slippery footwork during Leader’s Questions, Mr Kenny announced when reading from his script that there was no “definitive” evidence of surveillance at GSOC HQ, but when speaking generally, he changed this to no evidence at all.

So, as the ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’ saga became curiouser and curiouser, events turned on the definition of the word “definitive”.

If there was no definitive evidence, then surely that meant there was still some sort of grey area surrounding the bugging claims?

But just as the three anomalies of GSOC were about to take on the status of the three secrets of Fatima, it was left to Alan Shatter, the justice minister, to do what the Taoiseach had failed to do, and shoot down claims the commission had been subjected to illegal surveillance.

The minister, GSOC, and the gardaí have always had something of a tempestuous relationship, an unhappiness Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin quaintly summed-up as a “triangle of mistrust”.

As Mr Shatter expressed outrage that the gardaí had been subjected to baseless “innuendo” during the controversy, garda sergeants and inspectors demanded the head of ombudsman Simon O’Brien.

Garda top brass and Mr Shatter have been accused of having a too cosy relationship over the ongoing penalty points saga, which was only recently put into the hands of GSOC, after the minister refused to let them probe the simmering matter for more than 14 months.

So, who wins and who loses in the aftermath of this sudden, slightly weird affair, which has left GSOC badly weakened, while the minister and gardaí adopt the moral high ground?

And it must be noted that Mr O’Brien has not played this one well, indeed when the GSOC chairperson emerged from a two-hour meeting with the minister after the controversy first broke, it was noted that he looked well and truly Shattered.

More on this topic

Report fails to establish responsibility for GSOC leakReport fails to establish responsibility for GSOC leak

GSOC chief says 'questions remain unanswered' over bugging claimsGSOC chief says 'questions remain unanswered' over bugging claims

Justice Minister 'still has confidence' in GSOCJustice Minister 'still has confidence' in GSOC

Cooke report delivered to Taoiseach's officeCooke report delivered to Taoiseach's office


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