Statement by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D.

-   Susan Moss

A Chathaoirleach,  

 

I move:  

“That Seanad Éireann approves the following Order in draft:  

 

Commission of Investigation (Certain Matters relative to An Garda Síochána and other persons) Order 2014,  

 

copies of which Order in draft were laid before Seanad Éireann on 15 th April, 2014″  

 

Background  

At its meeting on 25 March, the Government considered very serious matters relating to An Garda Síochána.  The implications of these were potentially of such gravity that the Government decided to establish a statutory Commission of Investigation to examine all matters of public concern relating to the issue.  

 

In the context of ongoing legal proceedings in a particular case, it was learned that a system was in place in a large number of Garda stations whereby incoming and outgoing telephone calls were recorded.  From the information available, the practice of making recordings was in place for many years and was discontinued in November of 2013.  It is now public knowledge that the case in question is the Bailey case. 

 

Subsequently, at its meeting on 1 April, the Government decided to appoint Mr. Justice Nial Fennelly, currently serving as a Judge of the Supreme Court, as Chair of the Commission of Investigation.  

 

The Government also decided that An Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice & Equality should:  

– ensure the retention and preservation of all tapes;

– complete a full inventory of all tapes; and

– devise arrangements to ensure that tapes can be accessed, as required and in accordance with the law.  

 

The Government also decided to establish a new Cabinet Committee on Justice Reform to oversee the development of proposals for an independent police authority, and other associated reforms to the policing and justice system. 

 

It is imperative that we, as a society, have full public confidence in, and support for, the Garda Síochána given the very difficult and important job that they do.  We therefore wish to see a full public debate on the issue of policing and justice reform and the Government will bring forward proposals for a public consultation process on this issue in the coming weeks.  

 

The Government is strongly committed to these reforms and intends to have new structures, including the appointment of a new Garda Commissioner by open competition and the establishment of a new independent policing authority, in place later this year.  

 

Further evidence of this commitment is the establishment of the Cooke and Guerin inquiries, both of which are due to report very shortly.  

 

Commission of Investigation  

On 8 April, the Government published detailed Terms of Reference for the Commission, which incorporate the views conveyed by the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in their letter to me of 3 April.  

 

The terms of reference of the Commission are to investigate and report on the operation of Garda Síochána telephone recording systems and on the following matters in particular:  

 

(a) To identify all Garda Stations in which telephone recording systems, to record calls other than 999 calls to the Emergency Call Answering Service, were installed and/or operated by An Garda Síochána between 1st January 1980 and 27th November 2013 and to establish an inventory of those Garda Stations so identified to include:  

(i) the date of initial installation, where such installation occurred at a date between 1st January 1980 and 27th November 2013;

(ii) to report whether any such installations were already in existence on the 1st January 1980;

(iii) the duration for which telephone recording systems continued in operation in each such Garda Station;

(iv) the date on which telephone recording systems were terminated or removed from each such Garda Station.  

 

(b) To establish the immediate circumstances surrounding the installation of telephone recording systems operated by An Garda Síochána at the said Garda Stations and to establish what authorisation was sought or obtained by An Garda Síochána for such installation and, including the funding, installation, maintenance and / or upgrading of those telephone recording systems, to include the public procurement procedure followed in 1996 and further in relation to the installation of the NICE recorder system in 2008.  

 

(c) To establish how the said telephone recording systems operated by An Garda Síochána were managed and to establish what use (if any), was made by An Garda Síochána of any information collated by the said telephone recording systems.  

 

(d) To identify the organisation and structures in place for the installation, operation and management of the said telephone recording systems and in the storage, access, analysis and use of any information obtained from them.  

 

(e) To investigate and report on the level of knowledge of the existence, operation and use of the said telephone recording systems within An Garda Síochána.  

 

(f) To investigate and report on the level of knowledge of the existence, operation and use of the said telephone recording systems within the Office of the Minister for Justice and Equality, the Department of Justice and Equality, the Office of the Attorney General, the Chief State Solicitor’s Office, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.  

 

(g) To establish whether the installation, operation and use of the said telephone recording systems was authorised by law. 

 

(h) To establish whether any telephone conversations between solicitors and their clients were recorded by the said telephone recording systems.  

 

(i) To establish whether any information obtained from the said telephone recording systems by An Garda Síochána was used by it either improperly or unlawfully and, in particular, whether any recordings as may have been made by An Garda Síochána of Solicitor / Client telephone conversations were used for any purpose whatsoever.  

 

(j) To establish where the recorded information obtained from the telephone recording systems operated by An Garda Síochána was stored since the creation of same and to establish how such information was accessed and analysed by An Garda Síochána.  

 

(k) To establish whether any of the recorded information has been destroyed.  

 

(l) To establish any instances during the relevant period where the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions made use of the data and information produced by the said telephone recording systems for any purpose.  

 

(m) In particular, to identify and review all recordings in the possession of An Garda Síochána emanating from the Garda telephone recording system at Bandon Garda Station or otherwise, which relate to the Garda investigation into the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier and to establish whether those recorded phone calls, and any other acts or events in the course of the said Garda investigation, disclose any evidence of unlawful or improper conduct by members of An Garda Síochána in connection with that investigation.  

 

(n) To investigate and report on the furnishing to the Minister of a letter dated 10th March 2014 sent by the former Garda Commissioner, Mr. Martin Callinan, to the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality.  

 

(o) To investigate and report on the sequence of events leading up to the retirement of the former Garda Commissioner Mr. Martin Callinan on the 25th March 2014.  

 

(p) In the event that any matter arises from the Report of the Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly pursuant to section 31 of the Prisons Act 2007 into all the circumstances surrounding the recording of telephone conversations between prisoners and their solicitors, which appears to require further investigation in the public interest the Commission may investigate and report on same.  

 

(q) To report on any other matters of concern arising from its investigation of recordings to and from Garda Stations and to make any further recommendations as it sees fit.  

 

The Commission shall exercise discretion in relation to the scope and intensity of the investigation it considers necessary and appropriate, having regard to the general objective of the investigation. In particular, the Commission shall have the discretion to decide to limit its investigation to samples of recordings in the light of what is disclosed as the investigation progresses.  

 

Cost & Timeframe  

The Commission’s Terms of Reference as approved by Government, envisage a final report to the Government no later than the 31st December 2014, subject to section 6(6) of the Act.  

 

I am aware that there have been calls for earlier reports on some elements of the investigation, particularly the sequence of events leading up to the retirement of the former Garda Commissioner.  However, it is important to recognise the independence of the Judge and therefore the Government believes it is more appropriate to give the Commission full flexibility on the nature, timing or sequencing of any part of the investigation.

The staffing requirements of the Commission will reflect the scope of the terms of reference and the ambitious timescale involved.  The exact requirements of the Commission will become clearer once the Commission is established and begins to scope out its work in more detail.  The appointment of staff and their terms and conditions will be subject to approval by me, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure.

In addition to direct staffing costs, set-up and ongoing costs will arise in relation to the establishment of the Commission’s office, ICT and administration, travel and subsistence etc.  Specialist expertise may also be required given the subject of the investigation.

Based on an initial assessment, a cost of €2m is deemed a reasonable estimate for 2014 and it is proposed to provide for this from the Vote of the Department of the Taoiseach.  This estimate is based on the assumption that the Commission completes its work by the end of 2014, as specified in the terms of reference.  If it were deemed necessary to extend the Commission’s work beyond that date, then further staffing and other costs will of course arise.

In addition to salary and administration costs, third party costs are also likely to arise.  In accordance with the provisions of the Act, following consultation with the Commission and with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, I will have guidelines prepared concerning this area.  The extent and timing of any such costs are difficult to estimate at this stage.

Conclusion  

My sole interest in addressing these matters, which are rightly of deep public concern, is to establish the truth. 

 

It appears that the practices which will be investigated by the Commission may have been going on for 30 years. I believe that the establishment of the Commission is the most appropriate, timely and cost effective way of getting to the truth. 

I believe that the Commission’s comprehensive Terms of Reference will ensure that all relevant issues are investigated in a thorough and timely manner and I commend the motion to the House.           

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