An inquiry into the taping of phone calls at garda stations across the country will examine the broader issue of whether there was any “unlawful or improper” conduct by the gardaí investigating the death of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier 18 years ago.
The inquiry will also examine the “sequence of events” leading up to the retirement of the Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, last month, amid claims that he was effectively sacked by the Taoiseach for political reasons.
The inquiry will examine the handling of a letter, sent by Mr Callinan to the Department of Justice, on March 10, which the Government claims was not passed on to Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, until two weeks later.
The terms of reference for the inquiry, which will be chaired by Mr Justice Nial Fennelly, were agreed by cabinet at its weekly meeting this morning.
It will report to the Government by December, and will examine:
• the operation of telephone recording systems, to record calls other than 999 calls, at a large number of Garda Stations.
• what was known about the practice over the years by the Department of Justice and the offices of the DPP, the Attorney General, the Chief State Solicitor’s Office, the Data Protection Commissioner and the Garda Ombudsman.
• whether the recordings were used improperly and unlawfully by members of the force, and whether the recordings of calls between solicitors and suspects were “used for any purpose whatsoever.”
• whether the recordings were stored and, if so, how they were accessed and analysed by gardaí.
• whether the DPP made use of the data and information produced by the phone recordings for any purpose.
• whether any of the recorded material has been destroyed.
The inquiry will look at all recordings in the possession of the gardaí from Bandon Garda Station relating to the investigation into the death of Ms Du Plantier in December 1996.
It will be tasked with establishing whether those recorded calls and “any other acts or events" in the course of that investigation reveal “any evidence of unlawful or improper conduct” by members of the garda in connection with that investigation.
It has also been agreed that Minister Pat Rabbitte will be added to a cabinet committee - established last week - to oversee reforms of the policing and justice system.
The Attorney General will also attend the meetings of the four person group which includes the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore and Minister Shatter and Rabbitte.