Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

Gardai 'didn't ok phone snooping'

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was made aware of the scandal

Rank-and-file gardai did not authorise or operate widespread surveillance of phone lines in stations, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) has said.

Amid repeated denials from Taoiseach Enda Kenny that he sacked the head of the force over the scandal, the association said continued speculation about junior officers' knowledge of systematic taping is undermining policing.

Mr Kenny said he dispatched a top civil servant on the eve of Martin Callinan's departure on Tuesday to convey concerns about the implications of the controversy.

He said: "The only people I can dismiss from office are ministers with the consent of Government, or ministers of state.

"The Garda Commissioner made his own decision."

With concerns that the surveillance system may lead to a raft of appeals for convictions from gang bosses, murderers, rapists and terror chiefs, the GRA said they were only aware of recording of calls to control and communications rooms, 999 lines and some public offices but no other lines.

The organisation, which has about 11,500 members, said it wanted to reassure the public that no officers of garda rank were involved in authorising the taping of calls.

"Our members are concerned about the level of recording, but this is an issue we are raising with Garda management," it said.

"The Garda Representative Association also wishes to place on record the recent controversies have further undermined the morale of those gardai working at the frontline of policing.

"The continued speculation in the media is impacting on the policing function - and until we have clarification and concrete facts the continued speculation undermines our members' day-to-day work."

The GRA said it understood the recording of some lines was similar to an operation in fire and ambulance control rooms to monitor calls for clarity and store their contents for accountability.

The GRA said it has wanted an independent police authority establish since 1979.

"Policing is a public service and function best completed by professionals accountable to the community they serve, not to the narrow interests of politics," the group said.

"An independent police authority remains the modern practical solution to separate political power from the power to arrest and detain."

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