Justice Minister 'still has confidence' in GSOC

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald says she still has confidence in the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) despite a report questioning its response to alleged surveillance of its office.

The report from retired High Court judge John Cooke, published last night, finds no evidence of bugging of the GSOC offices and questions the decision to launch an investigation in the first place.

It says there are simple explanations for two of the three security issues found by GSOC - while the other is described as a "technological anomaly".

Minister Fitzgerald says although the report is critical of GSOC, its members did come out with some credit.

"The judge does say that (GSOC) members acted in good faith," Minister Fitzgerald said.

"I do believe that there is certainly a need for a new culture of cooperation between GSOC and the Gardaí… there are some protocols in place and I will be asking whether they are working.

"I want to make sure that they work."

The minister also defended her predecessor Alan Shatter, saying the report offered "food for thought" for people who had criticised him when the reports first emerged.

In a statement, GSOC said the findings mirror its own investigation which stated in February that they were satisfied their databases were not compromised, and there was no evidence of Garda misconduct.

It added that the Cooke report finds that the office "acted in good faith".

"We will consider carefully the further recommendations contained in the report in relation to security arrangements," the commission said.

"We are happy that the Judge is satisfied that the steps taken by GSOC to rectify security deficiencies that came to light as a result of our investigations are adequate."

Meanwhile, interim Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan said she and her senior management team are conducting a close review of the document.

In a statement issued last night, she also said the force acknowledges that the working relationship between the force and GSOC needs to be more constructive.

However, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties is describing the Cooke report as "an exercise in smoke and mirrors", after it found it impossible to rule out all possibility of covert surveillance.

The human rights watchdog says there appears to have been no attempt to have establish objectively whether or not surveillance of GSOC by Gardaí had been sought or authorised.

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