Govt sets up investigation into claims garda-station calls were recorded for years

The Government has launched an inquiry into claims of widespread bugging of Garda stations just hours after Martin Callinan dramatically stood down as Garda Commissioner.

After a lengthy Cabinet meeting, the coalition released a statement declaring it was extremely concerned about the revelations which it said were potentially of such gravity that a statutory Commission of Investigation was being established.

The Government said in a statement: “In the context of ongoing legal proceedings in a particular case, the Government has learned that a system was in place in a large number of Garda stations whereby incoming and outgoing telephone calls were taped and recorded.”

“The Government was informed of this new information at its meeting today. As the matter is before the courts, it is not appropriate to make any further comment on the specific case.”

The bugging was in place for “many years and was discontinued in November of 2013” but it is not yet clear why the practice was in operation.

“The Government is extremely concerned about this information,” said the statement.

Both the Garda and the Department of Justice have been ordered to report back to the coalition on the sensational claims.

The announcement followed the shock resignation of Garda Comissioner Martin Callinan, who said he was retiring in the best interests of his family and the force after months of battling allegations of wrongdoing within his ranks.

Mr Callinan’s dramatic stand down has stunned those professionally closest to him as well as senior Government figures, some of whom had demanded he withdraw controversial remarks about whistleblowers.

In a statement Mr Callinan said: “In the best interests of An Garda Síochána and my family, I have decided to retire. I felt that recent developments were proving to be a distraction from the important work that is carried out by An Garda Síochána on a daily basis for the citizens of the State in an independent and impartial manner.”

The Garda chief did not deal any further with the controversies that have rocked his stewardship of the force, but praised his colleagues for serving the Irish people.

Mr Callinan is understood to have tendered his resignation “with immediate effect” to the Justice Minister Alan Shatter this morning after coming under intense pressure in recent weeks to withdraw remarks he made about two whistleblowers within his ranks.

During a parliamentary watchdog hearing into abuse of the penalty points system by the force, the country’s top police officer said only two officers out of 13,000 were making “extraordinary, serious allegations”.

“Frankly I think it is quite disgusting, on a personal level I think it is quite disgusting,” he said at the time.

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