“I think we can put that matter behind us now,” the Taoiseach told the Dáil.
His vague hope prompted laughter from the opposition who knew questions over his government’s handling of the Garda Ombudsman controversy would not go away.
This wasn’t how it was meant to be. The night before, it seemed he and Justice Minister Alan Shatter had successfully shut down any talk that the police watchdog might have been under surveillance.
There was “no evidence” found during the “routine sweep of a nature which had occurred previously”, the minister said, and the issue was prompted by “no specific concern”.
“No definitive evidence existed,” the Taoiseach insisted, and “no further action was necessary or reasonably practicable. I hope we can move on”.
It was the same sort of shutdown attempted when a last-minute intervention was made to try to halt a garda whistleblower’s planned appearance at the Public Accounts Committee to give evidence on penalty points cancellations.
Mr Shatter referred the issue to the Garda Ombudsman Commission, who he had sidelined from all previous handling of the complaints, in the expectation it would stop the issue being played out in a committee.
But just as they failed in that effort, so too did they fail in their efforts to kill the story about surveillance at the ombudsman’s office.
The three members of the commission last night painted a very different picture to what Mr Shatter told TDs the night before.
Ombudsman Simon O’Brien said he suspected they “may have been under some form of surveillance”, adding, “I have no information in my possession that any other ombudsman office has ever been under that sort of surveillance.”
Furthermore, he said he could not rule out garda involvement and said the surveillance may have been authorised. He confirmed he “fully informed the minister of everything that happened” in a meeting before Mr Shatter made his statement to the Dáil.
Questions now hang over Mr Shatter, including why he attempted to play down the issue, and whether he was telling the Dáil the full details of what he knew.
He is also under pressure to explain whether — if there was no “unauthorised surveillance” — there was authorised surveillance. The opposition are not likely to let this issue rest and public disquiet about the Coalition’s handling of the affair is not likely to go away.
Despite the Taoiseach’s wishes, the messy affairs is far from being behind him and his Government.
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