Shatter welcomes Cooke Report conclusions

Wednesday 11 June 2014 22.17
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Alan Shatter said he had previously 'dealt with these matters in a straightforward, truthful and comprehensive way'
Alan Shatter said he had previously 'dealt with these matters in a straightforward, truthful and comprehensive way'
GSOC has had its claims of credible security threats dismissed by the Cooke report
GSOC has had its claims of credible security threats dismissed by the Cooke report

Former minister for justice Alan Shatter has welcomed the publication of the Cooke Report and its conclusions.

In a statement tonight, Mr Shatter said "I previously addressed these matters in detail as Minister for Justice in Dáil Éireann on both 11 and 18 February and before the Joint Oireachtas Petitions Committee on the 19 February.  

"I did so on the basis of information then available to me as received from GSOC, including their technical reports and a technical peer review of those reports commissioned by the Department of Justice.  

"I reported to the House GSOC's own conclusions that 'no definitive evidence of unauthorised technical or electronic surveillance  was uncovered' with regard to their offices.

"I also recounted that there was no identified connection between any member of An Garda Siochana and any of these matters,  GSOC having in their own press release stated that 'there was no evidence of Garda misconduct'.       

"I dealt with these matters in a straightforward,  truthful and comprehensive way." 

Earlier, Acting Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan  said the Cooke Report exonerated gardaí from any wrongdoing. 

She said she sees the report as a launch pad to build on the relationship that exists between an Garda Síochána and GSOC to ensure it is open, transparent, independent, effective and objective. 

Ms O'Sullivan said she would like to think the Cooke Report removes any lingering doubts that existed. 

She said it is very important that people have confidence in gardaí and the Cooke Report has gone a long way in enforcing that confidence. 

Ms O'Sullivan added she does not believe any damage has been done and said she is committed to having a constructive relationship with GSOC. 

GSOC Chairman Simon O'Brien said question marks remain over the bugging allegations at its offices in Dublin despite the publication of the report by Judge John Cooke.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr O'Brien said GSOC had been careful not to point the finger at gardaí, but there was still an outstanding matter that needed to be explained.

GSOC has defended its decision to identify as credible two security threats, which the Cooke Report has now dismissed as "not convincing" and "highly unlikely".

The commission said in a statement this morning that it decided at a certain point that further investigations into the allegations of bugging at its offices were not reasonably practical.

However, it said that Judge Cooke conducted further inquiries and has drawn more definite conclusions on two of the three anomalies.

Judge Cooke described one of the threats as "highly improbable and not convincing"; the other he attributed to a mobile phone company testing in the area.

The third anomaly remains unexplained.

The Cooke Report also described as premature GSOC's decision to investigate possible garda involvement because the information did not indicate a garda had committed a disciplinary or criminal offence.

GSOC, however, said this should be read in view of the additional information that came to light in the inquiry.

The Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson has said there are still remaining serious questions following on from the publication of the report.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said it was difficult to provide definitive evidence that somebody was the victim of surveillance.

He said the report certainly wasn't an absolute rebuttal of the concerns raised about allegations of bugging at GSOC.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said those working in GSOC should continue in their positions.

She said there were no findings in the report against any of the personnel working at GSOC.

She did say however that questions arose in relation to some of the decisions taken by GSOC and they should reflect on them.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins has said a reasonable interpretation of the report was that GSOC was vulnerable to bugging and was vulnerable to any form of surveillance or threat of surveillance.

From that point of view, he said, GSOC was entitled to feel it was under threat and that it was entitled to go about addressing those issues.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Collins said what concerned Fianna Fail most, in February, when the story appeared in The Sunday Times was the fact that the Government moved very quickly to try to quash the story.

He said the Government effectively set out to try to discredit GSOC's concerns which damaged the independence of GSOC and it was not good for the administration of justice in this country.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties said answers still need to be sought in connection with the alleged bugging.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, ICCL Director Mark Kelly said that the terms of reference for the investigation were too narrow.

Mr Kelly said the judge was not asked to look for the truth about whether GSOC might have been bugged by agents of the state and he had not asked essential questions of state agencies.

He said the public were left with an incomplete picture and could be no more certain today than we were in February whether GSOC was bugged.

Mr Kelly said a review was needed of both the Garda Act 2005 and of surveillance legislation, which he described as being out of date and not fit for purpose.

Keywords: gsoc, cooke report