‘Alarm’ at Shatter’s failure to disprove bug claim

An Oireachtas committee probing the GSOC crisis has expressed “alarm” at Alan Shatter’s failure to back up his Dáil statement that the ombudsman’s office was not bugged.

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, chairman of the Public Services Oversight Committee, has written to the justice minister expressing concern that he did not fulfil his promise to deliver a summary of the differences between two conflicting reports into whether GSOC was subjected to electronic surveillance.

After Garda Ombudsman Simon O’Brien indicated to TDs that a report by British security company Verimus pointed to surveillance, Mr Shatter told the Dáil he had ordered a “peer review” of the evidence by Irish firm Rits which had found “no evidence at all” of bugging.

Mr Shatter then promised the committee a “document which summarises the differences” between the two findings.

However, Sinn Féin TD Mr Mac Lochlainn said the minister went back on that pledge.

“Mr Shatter has failed to give us the alternative explanations that he said he would, and the committee is disappointed and alarmed by this,” he said.

“What he has sent us is non-committal, and just a series of queries, and based on it we have to be alarmed as to what he said in the Dáil. We would have to find at this stage in favour of the Verimus analysis based on what the minister has sent us.

“As things stand, we have to conclude that — for whatever reason — the minister was talking up the analysis of Rits and was talking down the findings of Verimus without justification.

“Is there a narrative here? Was the minister trying to disprove the allegations, rather than examine them? That is the concern and it is a very significant matter.”

The committee chairman said that the three security threats which concerned GSOC had still not been explained.

These threats involved “government-level” technology being used to create a 3G network in the area of the GSOC HQ; a GSOC phone ringing at 1am after its line had been tested for surveillance — the chances of which being a coincidence Verimus rated as “near zero”; and the wi-fi at GSOC being connected to an external network.

When revealing the existence of the Rits report, Mr Shatter told the Dáil last month: “There is no evidence of any technical or electronic surveillance against GSOC. That is no evidence at all, not merely no definitive evidence. This report also disputes other conclusions reached by Verimus.”

Mr Shatter had told the committee that while he could not publish both reports in their totality, he did say: “In the context of just summarising the differences between them, I don’t see a difficulty in that.”

Mr Mac Lochlainn said the committee will give Mr Shatter another chance to provide the information he promised and if he again fails to do so, they will decide whether to call him in to answer questions in person again.

The findings of an inquiry into the GSOC bugging affair by a former High Court judge are expected to be made public in May.

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