Fianna Fáil Justice and Equality spokesperson, Jim O’Callaghan TD, has welcomed the publication of the Report of the Commission of Investigation chaired by Mr. Justice Nial Fennelly.
Deputy O’Callaghan said, “I want to thank Mr. Justice Fennelly for his report which contains a very thorough analysis of the history of Garda telephone recording since 1980. Although the recording of non-999 calls in Garda stations was unlawful, it did not constitute a history of anything approaching deliberate abuse of power. As was noted by Mr. Justice Fennelly, the absence of a lawful basis for these recordings was caused and contributed to by misunderstanding, poor communications, imperfect information and a sequence of errors rather than any conspiracy.
“The report also contains recommendations, some of which must be acted upon by the Government and Oireachtas. Legislation should be introduced to facilitate the recording, not just of 999 calls, but of emergency-related communications to and from Garda stations generally. There are clear benefits for the general public and the Gardaí in having such calls recorded. The Oireachtas must also commence a review of the offence of interception and section 98 of the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act, 1983.
“Although the report has concluded that the recordings were unlawful, the consequences of such unlawfulness was significantly overestimated by the Government. The alarmist response of the Government had the effect of removing the former Commissioner even though he had stopped the recordings when he became aware of them in 2013. We will be holding the Taoiseach to account on this in the Dáil next week and seeking answers about his behaviour, that of the Attorney General and the interaction between them both on this matter.
“Any appraisal of the report cannot ignore the deeply disturbing finding that 2 members of An Garda Síochána discussed the suppression, modification or alteration of evidence in a criminal investigation. Such improper conduct is unacceptable in An Garda Síochána,” said O’Callaghan.