Independent inquiry into GSOC spying allegations needed now says rights watchdog

  • 16-02-2014
  • Categorized in: Justice

Press release, for immediate release

Sunday 16 February 2014

Ireland's independent human rights watchdog, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has said that an independent inquiry into the GSOC bugging revelations is needed to "staunch the erosion of public trust" in the independence and effectiveness of Ireland's police accountability systems.

Speaking today (Sunday 16 February 2014) after further revelations appeared in the Sunday Times newspaper, ICCL Director Mr Mark Kelly said:

"Public trust in our national authorities has been badly shaken by a week of claims and counter-claims. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) seems not to have told the Minister for Justice its full reasons for launching a spying sweep and, in turn, the Minister may have been editorial with the truth before the Dail.  As for the Garda Commissioner, it strains credulity for him to suggest that the possibility of unauthorised spying by members of An Garda Síochána can have been definitively eliminated in the space of a couple of days."

"The Taoiseach faltered at the outset of this ongoing scandal, when he wrongly suggested that GSOC had breached a legal duty to report to the Minister. He could show real leadership at this juncture by moving swiftly to appoint an independent person to conduct an inquiry under the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004" Mr Kelly added.

The ICCL considers that the unanswered questions that an independent inquiry should address include:

-     who deployed a level of technology "only available to Government agencies" in the vicinity of the GSOC offices last year? Garda Special Branch, the Defence Forces Intelligence Branch (G2) and the Revenue Commissioners have lawful powers to engage in surveillance. Last June, in his capacity as Minister for Defence, Alan Shatter told the Dail that G2 operatives have a "very close and effective working relationship with their counterparts in An Garda Síochána", but he has not explicitly excluded their involvement in surveillance activities near GSOC's Abbey Street headquarters. Does G2 or Garda Special Branch have access to the "ISMI Catcher" (or "Stingray") device it seems was used to snoop on GSOC? If so, what are the safeguards, if any, which surround the use of such equipment?

-     has there been authorised interception of the telephone calls of anyone else involved in breaking the GSOC snooping story? Under the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act 1993, it is the Minister for Justice who has the power to authorise such interceptions, based on requests by the Garda Commissioner. Have any such interceptions been sought and/or authorized? If so, why?

-     what truly prompted the GSOC security sweep?

The ICCL has noted that, earlier today, GSOC expressed the wish to move on from the bugging controversy and to refocus on the important work that it undertakes as an independent statutory agency. The ICCL would welcome such an outcome; however, it considers that this will only be possible once public confidence in the integrity of our police accountability structures has been restored by the findings of an independent inquiry.

ENDS

 

Walter Jayawardene

Communications Manager

Irish Council for Civil Liberties

Mob: +353 87 9981574  

E-mail:  walter.jayawardene@iccl.ie


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