Leak fears led GSOC to order HQ sweeps

The Garda Siochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) has said it ordered overnight surveillance clearance sweeps on its Dublin offices because it feared “exceptionally informed” comments aired in public had been leaked from its headquarters.

GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien said “heightened concerns” about confidentiality first surfaced in May of last year when GSOC had been involved in a number of high profile investigations, including a special report which had been highly critical over what it claimed was a lack of support from the Garda.

It contradicts what Justice Minister Alan Shatter told the Dáil on Tuesday that security checks were routine.

As a result of the sweep the Ombudsman told the Oireachtas Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions that in September two potential threats were identified.

* A wireless device in the GSOC boardroom which had connected to an external Wi-Fi network, although Mr O’Brien said there was no question its databases or electronics systems were compromised.

* The second threat surrounded the security of a conference call telephone in Mr O’Brien’s office. When a signal was sent down the phone at 1am, the phone rang back. The UK investigators believed there was virtually no chance the resulting callback was a wrong number.

After assessing the two threats, Mr O’Brien said on October 8 a public interest investigation was launched under Section 102(4) of the Garda Act. He said GSOC’s Acting Director of Investigations believed that if the threats were proven, “surveillance may have originated with An Garda Siochána” and a member may have committed an offence. He said that as “impalpable” as it may be for committee members to hear, Garda members could have been involved, although there was no “definitive” proof.

Mr O’Brien said after the third threat, involving the uncovering of a UK 3G network whose technology was only available to Government agencies, they stopped discussing the investigation using texts, mobile phones or office meetings.

“We ended up having to keep it so tight that we were meeting in cafés in Capel Street to discuss this” he said. He said analysis of the threat was inconclusive, but he suspected GSOC may have been under surveillance.

Mr O’ Brien told TDs and Senators he regretted he did not report his concerns to Mr Shatter. He “sat on” it over Christmas and made a “strategic decision” not to report what he described as “suspicious activity” because the resulting public disquiet over alleged Garda involvement would have been immense.

Responding to TD Michael Healy Rae, he said the leaking of the report to a Sunday newspaper was “an outrage” and had damaged “an already strained relationship between GSOC and the gardaí.”

He has ordered an investigation into who leaked the information and wanted them brought to justice.

More on this topic

Gsoc probes garda’s claims of pub law abusesGsoc probes garda’s claims of pub law abuses

Parallel investigations by gardaí and GSOC into Dublin road fatality Parallel investigations by gardaí and GSOC into Dublin road fatality

GSOC investigated 49 whistleblower complaints last yearGSOC investigated 49 whistleblower complaints last year

GSOC examining circumstances surrounding death of man after Midland Regional Hospital incidentGSOC examining circumstances surrounding death of man after Midland Regional Hospital incident


When Marisa Murphy went to play as a teenager on Dinish Island, she could still see the flowers growing among the ruins in her grandmother’Islands of Ireland: Barely inhabitated Dinish became an industrial zone

MAC make-up artist Lucy Bridge shares her tips backstage at Roland Mouret.How to create the perfect matte red lip, according to a backstage beauty expert

New trends include chunky heeled boots, silver belts and lots of plaid from the British designer.Victoria Beckham got ‘rebellious’ for her new collection – as David and family watched on

When horses were shown photographs of angry human faces, their hearts speeded up.Jackass penguin talk is similar to humans

More From The Irish Examiner