Judge invited to appear at Oireachtas hearing over GSOC bugging report

Retired High Court judge John Cooke has been invited to appear before a joint hearing of two Oireachtas committees, either tomorrow or Wednesday week.

Justice Cooke, who carried out a report into the alleged bugging of the offices of the Garda Ombudsman, has been asked to appear before a combined session of the Public Services Oversight and Petitions Committee and the Justice Committee.

The PSOPC may invite Ray Leonard, the deputy director of the Garda Ombudsman, to address the committee at a later stage.

Mr Leonard tendered his resignation suddenly over a week ago. It followed a written submission by him to the PSOPC expressing grave concerns about the independence, power and leadership structures of GSOC.

The PSOPC is also expected to discuss whether or not to ask Verrimus, the British firm which conducted a security sweep of GSOC, to come before it.

“We agreed with the Justice Committee to jointly invite Justice Cooke before the summer recess,” said Padraig Mac Lochlainn, chairman of the PSOPC which oversees the various ombudsmen.

The retired judge has been asked to appear either tomorrow or Wednesday next. Given the short notice, the latter date is more feasible. It is also the last week before the Dáil summer recess.

“I don’t expect he will take up the offer but I hope he will,” said Deputy Mac Loclainn (SF), who also sits on the justice committee.

He said there were a number of issues he personally wanted to hear Judge Cooke comment on.

“There were assertions by Verrimus staff and GSOC officers that they had suspicions of physical surveillance,” said the party’s justice spokesman. “I’d like to ask him about the blacked-out white van, the man with the bag in the coffee shop and the man with the camera in Dublin Airport.”

This relates to concerns regarding a white van parked opposite the GSOC offices and the supposedly suspicious behaviour of two men near it. Verrimus staff also saw two men, again apparently acting suspiciously, in the coffee shop underneath the GSOC offices.

In the other incident, a man took a photograph of Verrimus staff at a boarding gate at Dublin Airport.

The incidents were mentioned by Judge Cooke but he did not carry out any examination or analysis of them. He said it was beyond his powers to do so.

Mr Mac Lochlainn said depending on what Judge Cooke would reveal, his committee would discuss whether to invite GSOC to return and if Mr Leonard and Verrimus should also be asked to appear.

The chairman said the PSOPC would be interested in the report of GSOC’s internal inquiry into the leaking of a Verrimus report to The Sunday Times.

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