Callinan’s bugging assurances fail to convince

Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in Templemore, Co Tipperary, yesterday as the controversy over GSOC bugging claims rumbled on. Picture: Niall Carson/PA

Callinan’s assurances fail to convince

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan’s claims there was no unauthorised Garda involvement in the surveillance of the offices of the police watchdog have been questioned by senior ministers

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said he could not understand how Mr Callinan could give such an assurance, a stance backed by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.

Asked about the possibility that a “rogue” element of An Garda Síochána could have bugged the GSOC offices, Mr Callinan yesterday said no garda was involved in any surveillance of the watchdog offices or any member of the commission.

Mr Rabbitte told RTÉ he was “not sure” how the Garda Commissioner could give such categoric assurances on the question of unauthorised Garda intrusion. A spokesperson for Mr Gilmore said the Tánaiste agreed with Mr Rabbitte.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that if Mr Callinan could state with certainty there was no Garda involvement, then it raised the possibility there was other information available about who was responsible.

Speaking in Templemore, Co Tipperary, Mr Callinan was also critical of the police watchdog, saying that the leaking of the secret report had vindicated Garda concerns about the way GSOC handled highly confidential and sensitive information.

“I think the pigeon has come home to roost,” said Mr Callinan.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter struck a far more conciliatory tone after refusing to express confidence in the chairman of GSOC, Simon O’Brien, insisting he had confidence in the three ombudsmen collectively.

However, Mr Shatter was urged to correct the record of the Dáil after it emerged he received a briefing document from the commission on Monday, containing details that were omitted from his statement on Tuesday.

The document given to the minister by Mr O’Brien had three pieces of information which were not included in Mr Shatter’s Dáil speech on the issue the following day

Sinn Féin’s Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, chairman of the Oireachtas Oversight Committee which will question Mr Shatter on Wednesday, said his reading of the briefing note “heightened” his concerns.

Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesman, Niall Collins, said Mr Shatter had “come up very short in the information he provided to the Dáil”.

He called on Mr Shatter to “at a very minimum” correct the record and clarify what he told TDs on Tuesday night. “The Dáil is the people’s parliament and we are entitled to know this pertinent information which he was in possession of and which he refused to give to the Dáil,” said Mr Collins.

He added that the document “emphatically proves the minister was in possession of information which he did not make available to the Dáil”.

Meanwhile, GSOC last night said it had delivered a letter to the Department of Justice outlining concerns raised by Mr Shatter on Thursday in relation to alleged differences in Mr O’Brien’s two-hour briefing to the minister on Monday, and his subsequent appearance at the Oireachtas Oversight Committee.The commission said the content of the letter sought to “fully address and clarify” Mr Shatter's concerns.

The commission also said it was taking legal advice on the terms and references of its internal probe aimed at discovering who leaked the secret surveillance report to the media. Mr O’Brien told TDs and senators that seven or fewer people had access to the report.

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