Climbdown on GSOC inquiry

Alan Shatter will appear before the Oireachtas Public Oversight Committee today to answer questions related to his handling of the GSOC bugging issue last week.

An embarrassing climbdown over the need for an independent inquiry into the GSOC bugging controversy was forced by growing Cabinet unease over Justice Minister Alan Shatter’s handling of the crisis.

It is understood Labour ministers voiced concerns at yesterday’s pre-Cabinet meeting at how information “kept tumbling out” over the past 10 days and criticised the overall handling of the issue, including Mr Shatter, who had “created issues where there were none”.

Labour sources said the frustrations were felt on both sides of the Cabinet table and both parties agreed to “find a process led by someone whom everyone could have faith in”.

The U-turn on the review came 10 days after the scandal first broke and followed repeated Government rejections of the need for an inquiry amid opposition claims that concerted attempts were made to deflect attention away from whether bugging took place.

The Government press secretary said the probe was ordered in light of new technical information thatMr Shatter has presented to Cabinet which had resulted in “less clarity on the entire issue”.

The embattled justice minister last night told the Dáil he had received fresh information about the surveillance claims at GSOC HQ and now wanted the review because of differences of opinion.

Mr Shatter said GSOC had informed him that a wi-fi device in its offices had, in fact, been connected to a coffee shop below the police watchdog’s offices.

The minister also said a separate IT firm had concluded there was “no evidence at all” of bugging at GSOC’s offices.

The full terms of the review will be published today and the identity of the retired High Court judge who will head the eight-week investigation will be confirmed later in the week, The terms of reference for the inquiry are to be set out by Mr Shatter, with the advice of the Attorney General, Maire Whelan.

Mr Kenny told the Dáil that the High Court judge will have access to technical experts to explain the issues involved but it was “not an inquiry for calling witnesses”.

Opposition TDs called for a statutory inquiry and questioned the minister’s decision to decide the terms of the review.

Sinn Féin Cork North Central TD Jonathan O’Brien said the decision by the minister to set the terms of the inquiry was like “the fox designing the chicken coop”.

He and other TDs claimed the justice minister had been “less than forthcoming” with details last week.

The same party’s Kerry North TD Martin Ferris added: “The people from this state suspect that this scandal stinks to high heaven.”

GSOC said it would not comment ahead of any review, while Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan welcomed the investigation and said the force would fully co-operate with it.

Mr Shatter is due before the Oireachtas Public Oversight Committee later today.


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