In case you missed this.
Damien McCarthy, spokesman for the Garda Representative Association, spoke to Keelin Shanley on RTÉ Radio One yesterday morning in relation to the Cooke Report, which investigated claims that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission was under surveillance.
His interview followed a meeting of members of the GRA in Dublin – which represents about 1,000 gardaí – during which they proposed a motion of no confidence in the three commissioners of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, saying Simon O’Brien, Kieran Fitzgerald and Carmel Foley should step down with immediate effect.
Mr McCarthy said, contrary to many reports, the Cooke Report did find evidence or instances of GSOC being under surveillance but that this evidence wasn’t investigated adequately, if at all.
He also said questions remain.
Katie Hannon, from RTÉ’s Prime Time, also took part in the discussion.
Keelin Shanley: “Damien, what’s your problem with them?”
Damien McCarthy: “Well we’ve discussed this morning, and indeed over the last number of weeks, the fall-out from the much-publicised and commented Cooke Report. We firmly believe that, as a result, in particular for appearances by the entire Commission at two meetings of the Public Service Oversight and Petitions meetings of July 13, 2013 and indeed the most recent one of the 12th of February, 2014 – that the accounts given by the commissioners – at those meetings where these questions were asked by TDs and Senators, didn’t give an accurate picture of what happened throughout the course of an investigation into allegations of garda misconduct.”
Shanley: “I suppose Damien, a lot of people listening would say ‘well, you would say that, wouldn’t ya?’ Nobody expects the gardaí to like GSOC. Is it really your role here to express your confidence or lack of confidence in them at all. It’s…they’re there to investigate you.”
McCarthy: “Well, first and foremost, the GRA and the DMR South Central, one of the largest Garda divisions in the country, have no difficulty with the concept of independent oversight and there has to be a clear, transparent and fair procedure when allegations of wrongdoing are being investigated. What happened here was a highly publicised incident which garda, indeed from Pearse Street , Kevin Street and the regional traffic unit in Dublin Castle, were absolutely appalled in the manner in which the investigation was conducted and the glaringly obvious questions and scenarios developed which were not definitively and properly investigated. And the Commission were in charge of that investigation. They opened it, they closed it. And, as a result of what happened after, throughout a 50-page transcript that we discussed today and last week, was there any questions asked of GSOC in relation to bugging. They were asked specifically was there internal or external surveillance. And we’ve now discovered, as a result of Mr Cooke’s investigation, there was white vans parked outside the Ombudsman’s office, there was men whom were inside, in the coffee shop, in close proximity, allegedly surveying the building. Did anyone ask for one second who was in that van? Did it have a registration plate? Was CCTV footage stored? Secured? And viewed for the purpose of a detailed investigation? And, indeed most bizarrely, two investigators who were in Dublin Airport who met, in a secure location, were allegedly photographed by somebody surveilling them. Was that CCTV footage secured?
Shanley: “Damien, just to understand your point, the fact that people didn’t take a photograph of the reg plate, they didn’t get photographs, is this why you don’t have confidence in them? Is this what you’re saying?”
McCarthy: “These are simple errors that appear to have been made and questions that remain…”
Shanley: “Sure, everybody makes mistakes, we know for a fact that the guards have made plenty of mistakes over the years. I mean isn’t there a key question here about the lack of cooperation from the gardaí with GSOC. I mean with the case of Kieran Boylan, there were clear allegations that the guards had not cooperated with GSOC. They can’t do their job if you won’t talk to them.”
McCarthy: “I reject in totality the notion that guards from DMR South Central did not cooperate with members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission – these were glaringly obvious questions that haven’t been answered. And throughout a number of hours, where the commission – the entire commission – were present at an Oireachtas committee, there was no mention of these glaringly obvious issues of surveillance when they were asked quite specifically. Simon O’Brien was asked was his building under surveillance and there was no definitive evidence. Quite clearly, from Mr Cooke’s findings, there was evidence of surveillance and what was done with that evidence, it appears there was nothing done. Day in, day out, we cooperate fully with all aspects of investigations, both of a criminal and discipline nature and if gardaí were involved in this kind of investigation, they would probably find themselves before a discipline inquiry for neglect of duty.”
McCarthy: “It appears from what Mr Cooke discovered that there was physical surveillance in the confines of the GSOC office. What happened that evidence? What happened the CCTV footage? What happened during the course of that investigation ? Was it actually there in the first instance? Because we have heard from several people, throughout the transcripts of the Cooke Report that there was definitive evidence to suggest that physical surveillance was taking place. Would one not ask the question that all of this surveillance – some of which took place in a secure location – is somebody trying to tell me that somebody was under surveillance and that they had a boarding card for a flight and a passport to get into a secure location to take a photograph of a Verrimus employee? I find that very difficult to believe.”
Shanley: “So what do you think was going on, Damien? Who do you think was conducting that surveillance?”
McCarthy: “These are the questions that remain unanswered.If it was, in the first instance, were they to believe that there is clear evidence and when certain questions were asked of Mr Simon O’Brien – was the building under surveillance, he made reference to binoculars being used from the outside. There was no reference to a white van, there was no reference made to somebody conducting some kind of surveillance in the coffee shop next door. And questions were asked, when specific tests were carried out – go down to the coffee shop and tell me if somebody is holding a handheld device, or a laptop. If you go into any coffee shop in the country, you’re going to find somebody surfing the net and on Facebook and checking in – this is absolutely ludicrous material that was never highlighted in the public domain, apart from an article in the Irish Independent a number of weeks ago.”
Shanley: “And Damien, that’s the view of the GRA? Is it not just your own view?”
McCarthy: “That’s the view of the GRA and the DMR South Central – that there was clear evidence to suggest that there was some persons – indeed, up to four – in specific locations, on Abbey Street, where there is CCTV footage, both in the premises next-door, adjacent to it and the GSOC offices itself, that if those people were where they were supposed to be, it would be on CCTV footage and the basic investigative process would be to ensure that that is ruled in or ruled out – that appears not to have happened. And the Verrimus employees are quite insistent that they were being surveyed – what was done with that? And I’m sure members of the Public Service Oversight Committee will have questions to ask because they were never told of this surveillance throughout the course of a two, three-hour meeting from the entire commission. And furthermore, at the conclusion of the investigation, Mr Simon O’Brien said that it was going to be difficult – they found nothing. It shouldn’t be difficult when an investigation is concluded and guards are exonerated. It should be published transparently, in fairness, to all guards involved.”
Shanley: “So, just to be clear here, Damien, you do think that GSOC were under surveillance but you don’t think that the evidence or the investigation was conducted properly. Who do you think had put GSOC under surveillance? Because I mean, I suppose, from an outsider’s point of view, the only organisation that had any interest in what GSOC was up to were the guards.”
McCarthy: “It was clear from what Mr Cooke established in his report, what was discussed this morning and last week by this committee, that there was various pieces of vital information contained in reports that weren’t furnished to the guards, the Verrimus report. It’s quite clear that on the 9th of October, 2013, for the second visit, and indeed the third visit on the 23rd, the 29th of October, 2013, that various persons were following employees. And indeed the GSOC officer himself had said that two individuals had the building under surveillance. What was done with that vital piece of information because that is vital. it should be disclosed. It was never disclosed by the Commission when they went before an Oireachtas committee. Indeed the Oireachtas committee were so concerned after the meeting in February of this year to release a statement.”
Shanley: “So you’re saying there’s evidence there that has not been opened up, or it’s not been fully investigated? Katie, this is quite a new development?”
Katie Hannon: “Well it is and it isn’t. Again, I go back to the way in which the publication of this [Cooke] report was handled. It was quite unusual in that there was a Cabinet meeting held very late that evening and as I say, before that Cabinet meeting, which was called to consider this report, there had been leaks of the report all that afternoon saying that Mr Justice Cooke had found that there was no evidence, absolutely no evidence of any surveillance whatsoever. When the report emerged, it was just before we were going to air on Prime Time and we did our best to sort of get what we could out of that report but even from a more cursory look at it it appeared that while there was no definitive evidence found and I think even GSOC was saying there was no definitive evidence in the first place, that there was certainly a lot of unanswered questions. In particular in relation to one of the anomalies that had been discovered and no explanation of any kind really was forthcoming from the investigations of Mr Justice Cooke in relation to that. But in the days following that report, well, once you actually got into the fine detail of it, those details, the details that Damien was just talking about there emerged and there did seem to be some very puzzling issues in there. But at that point I suppose the story had gone out, that Cooke said there was nothing to see here and the story sort of moved on to some degree and I’m sure this morning, if the minister [for justice, Frances Fitzgerald] to Damien McCarthy or if her officials are there tearing their hair out because they really wanted to park this and move on.”
Listen to the full interview here
Previously: Nothing To Hear Here
Pic: Sligo Today