Two ex-gardaí have reportedly claimed they witnessed unauthorised bugging of witnesses’ homes and at other locations as far back as 1992.
According to RTÉ’s This Week programme, the former Cork-based gardaí made the admission to the Fennelly Commission and the claims have been forwarded by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.
The former garda and garda sergeant have reportedly claimed they encountered the alleged bugging while investigating a murder case.
According to the claims, another bugging device was later placed in a garda station without approval to listen to a conversation between the suspect and a visitor.
The sergeant has claimed that he saw senior gardaí testing the quality of the recording in a sound test and witnessed the recordings being gathered by another unidentified garda in a van.
According to RTÉ, Mr Justice Nial Fennelly has written to both men informing them that the commission’s terms of reference do not allow it to examine any allegations which do not specifically relate to the taping of phones at garda stations.
Meanwhile, moves to block legal firms who work for tobacco companies from tendering for Government work have been attacked by former attorney general Michael McDowell.
The ex-tánaiste and PD leader hit out at remarks by Children’s Minister James Reilly that he is seeking advice on stopping certain legal companies working for his department.
Dr Reilly’s move was in response to tobacco giants threatening to sue the Government over plans to introduce plain packaging for their products. Dr Reilly wants a bar put on the legal firms representing the cigarette companies from gaining work from his department in other areas.
The controversy arose after it came to light that law firm Arthur Cox is representing Japan Imperial Tobacco in its threatened legal action against the State regarding plain packaging, while it also works for the HSE and the child and family support agency, Tusla.
Mr McDowell said the move would be unworkable and set a bad precedent.
“I don’t think that would be lawful. I don’t think that would be a reasonable condition for most tenders in relation to most legal services,” Mr McDowell told RTÉ.
The former justice minister said that legal firms could separate their responsibilities when acting for the Government or a private client such as a tobacco company.
Mr McDowell did concede that there could be conflict of interest issues if a firm working for a tobacco company tendered for work on a health promotion campaign by the Government, but this could be dealt with without a blanket ban by ministers.
Mr McDowell warned it would be wrong for ministers to threaten firms with being “blacked” if they worked for another client.
Mr McDowell, who said he has sympathy with the Government’s move against the packaging of tobacco companies, believes that ministers are annoyed at the behaviour of the cigarette companies.
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