06 April 2017

Commenting on the publication of the Fennelly Report from the Commission of Investigation (Certain Matters relative to An Garda Síochána and other persons), Labour Party Leader and spokesperson on Justice, Brendan Howlin said:

“The state of affairs revealed in the Fennelly Report highlights in the most breath-taking way the chronically dysfunctional state of Garda management.

“According to the narrative of events accepted by Judge Fennelly, telecommunications equipment was wrongfully deployed in Garda stations throughout the State simply and solely due to a misunderstanding of the technical jargon by a single chief superintendent back in 1996. (5.1.29 on, page 36 of report)

“There was no policy or rationale for the illegal use of the system. In fact, there was never any policy at all.

“Furthermore, no one at senior level in the following decades knew that the system was in place, what it was for and how it was being used – even though they negotiated funding and procurement to have it upgraded twice.

“Apart from this individual and collective ignorance, Judge Fennelly’s key finding is that the installation and operation of this system was not authorised by common law or statute law, was a breach of the Constitution and constitutional rights, breached the European Convention on Human Rights and also breached EU law and the EU Charter. (9.38 on, page 80 of report)

“That there was, for decades, a scheme for surreptitiously recording telephone calls in Garda stations, without any official authorisation or legislative underpinning amounts, in anyone’s language, to a wholesale violation of the law – and it was quite properly a matter of utmost concern to the previous Government when it was discovered.

“That this could have been in place for decades under the noses of Garda management is quite simply bizarre. The quite incredible finding is that at operational level the Garda Síochána somehow managed to maintain and operate a legally unsanctioned and unconstitutional recording system, unbeknownst not only to the Minister of the day but also to their own Commissioner and senior management.

“That points to a profound failure of governance, both within the Gardaí and in the parent Department.

“The previous Government was quite right to raise concerns not just about the legality of the system but about its initiation and authorisation, management and use and the level of knowledge about its existence at Garda, Departmental and Ministerial level.

“Judge Fennelly’s findings do not set our minds at rest. On the one hand, he finds no evidence of improper use. On the other hand, he seems to conclude that not only was there no improper motivation but there was no thought out policy or purpose at all.

“So what was the system all about? And why was it replaced twice? Nobody knows – least of all Garda management. In fact, the report publishes figures showing that news of the system and its use had reached almost 32% of current members of Garda rank, most current and former Divisional Chief Superintendents but just one of 14 former Regional Assistant Commissioners and exactly 0% of Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners. (7.8 on, page 49; and 7.7.9, page 346 onwards)

“Given that all members enter the Force at the rank of Garda, it is odd that nobody at the most senior level had knowledge of these matters.

“This whole sorry saga reinforces my conviction that the systems and structures of Garda management are not fit for purpose and can no longer command the confidence of the public or their representatives.”

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