Report of the Fennelly Commission: Statements

I welcome the opportunity to discuss the final report of the Fennelly commission in the House today. I received the final report of the Fennelly commission on Friday, 31 March. In accordance with the Commissions of Investigation Act, I arranged for its publication as soon as possible, after consulting the Office of the Attorney General on Thursday, 6 April.

I want to put on the record of the House my own thanks and the thanks of the Government to Mr. Justice Nial Fennelly, the sole member of the commission, for his comprehensive, detailed and very clear report. Mr. Justice Fennelly is an eminent retired judge of the Supreme Court. We are fortunate that a man of such high calibre and judicial experience was available to lead the investigation.

The Fennelly commission was established by the Government in April 2014 following approval of a draft order by both Houses of the Oireachtas. The establishment of the commission reflected a concern about information which came into the public domain at that time concerning the recording of telephone calls to Garda stations. All sides of this House agreed that this was a matter of significant public concern. The commission completed its interim report with regard to paragraphs 1(n) and 1(o) of its terms of reference on 31 August 2015. The findings were extensively debated here in the Dáil in September 2015. With regard to allegations made against me yesterday in this House, I reiterate that the interim report was very clear in its findings. The commission found that I had no intention of forcing the resignation of the former Garda Commissioner and the commission also found that the former Garda Commissioner himself had decided to retire.

The commission’s final report into very extensive telephone calls made to Garda stations finds that it is "reasonable to conclude, based on the evidence before it, that no widespread or systematic, indeed probably no significant, misuse of information derived from non-999 recordings took place". The commission also found no evidence of knowledge of the recording of non-999 telephone calls on the part of relevant Ministers for Justice and Equality, the Department of Justice and Equality or other State agencies. However, the report makes many findings of great concern to the Government and, I am sure, to the House.

The commission finds that recording and retaining non-999 calls was not authorised by common law or by statute and that An Garda Síochána therefore infringed the constitutional rights of those recorded. This was a very serious finding about the police force charged with protecting citizens of this State. On its own, I believe this finding justifies the establishment of the commission in 2014. It is also clear that the Attorney General acted correctly as legal adviser to the Government in 2014. When she became aware of these very serious matters about the unlawful recording of telephone calls to Garda stations, she acted appropriately and properly in bringing them to my attention as Taoiseach.

The commission also makes damning findings about the lack of effective oversight and procedures within An Garda Síochána over a lengthy period, and the failure to respond when some technicians and officers raised concerns and questions. For example, the commission finds that "the lack of understanding at higher levels [concerning the operation and use of non-999 recording systems] does not excuse the fact that no formal policy or Directive was issued from Garda HQ covering such essential matters". This echoes structural and cultural problems which have been identified in other scandals in recent years. The commission also makes very disturbing findings about the content of certain telephone recordings relating to the investigation of the death of Ms Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

The Fennelly commission also makes a number of recommendations with regard to legislation to regulate the recording of phone calls by An Garda Síochána, the technology used to record and retain calls, the need for robust procedures for monitoring the use of any telephone recording system operated by the organisation and the destruction of all unlawfully recorded information derived from the Garda telephone recording system. Taken together, the findings of the Fennelly commission reinforce the Government’s determination to carry out a fundamental review of the future of policing in Ireland.

Yesterday, the Government approved draft terms of reference for a commission on the future of policing in Ireland. The Tánaiste is consulting with all parties in the House before these are finalised. This review will look at all functions carried out by An Garda Síochána, including community safety, state security and immigration. It will also consider the full range of bodies that provide oversight and accountability for policing in Ireland. It will take account of the changing nature of crime, society and public expectations; best practices in other countries; previous reports concerning policing in Ireland; and any specific challenges to delivering consistent reform in policing.

Importantly, the Government has explicitly stated that this review should not impede ongoing reforms. The Garda Commissioner's modernisation and renewal programme seeks to implement many of the recommendations of recent Garda Inspectorate reports. The Policing Authority is now preparing quarterly progress reports on the implementation of this plan, and these will be published by the Tánaiste. The Policing Authority will be given additional resources if required.

Other work which will continue in parallel includes the following: strengthening of senior management in An Garda Síochána, starting with three new senior level civilian appointments; examination by the Garda Inspectorate of how to open up entry routes into An Garda Síochána; a cultural audit of An Garda Síochána, which is being procured at present and the results of which audit will be published; the selection and appointment of senior members of An Garda Síochána being undertaken completely independently by the Policing Authority, and the first assistant commissioner was appointed through this process last month; and a review of the legislative provisions relating to how complaints are made and dealt with by GSOC, which is under way.

In addition to this comprehensive reform agenda, the Government has also agreed that the Tánaiste will do the following: refer the Fennelly report to the Policing Authority to oversee implementation of its recommendations in the context of its oversight of An Garda Síochána; examine the need for legislation in regard to the recording of calls and related matters, on foot of the recommendations of the Fennelly commission; and refer matters in the report relating to the Bailey case to GSOC to consider whether it believes any further investigation is necessary against the background of the investigation it has been carrying out already into the case.

The Fennelly report and other recent controversies have shown that An Garda Síochána is not in a position to meet the challenges of policing Ireland in the 21st century. The Government believes we need a fundamental review of the overall structure of An Garda Síochána and all aspects of its mandate. It is also essential that the reform processes already put in train by this and the previous Government are sustained. The position of the Government in regard to confidence in the Garda Commissioner remains unchanged. It is inappropriate and unhelpful to the reform process to seek to interfere politically with the statutory process of accountability which already exists through the Policing Authority.

I also acknowledge that An Garda Síochána comprises ordinary men and women who go to work on the front line every day with the best of intentions to serve and uphold the law. They are committed to providing the best public service they can, often in challenging and testing circumstances where they have to put themselves in danger. Of course, this does not mean that An Garda Síochána should be immune to criticism or censure. It makes it all the more important that its work is done correctly and appropriately to the highest standards. The Government and I look forward to continuing to work with the members of this House so the people can have the modern, efficient and effective police service they deserve.

The Fennelly report and the recording of non-999 phone calls in Garda stations provides a good example of how we in this country create, maintain and respond to a crisis. To take the issue of the non-999 phone calls first, a practice develops in Ireland to record phone calls in Garda stations and no one gives any consideration to whether it is lawful or not. Second, the practice continues for a long period, and even though its unlawful status is noticed by people in authority, nothing is done about it and no one takes responsibility in respect of it. Third, this is not a devious conspiracy caused by abuse of public office but, like most things in Ireland, a mistake that is created through inadvertence, misunderstanding, fecklessness, careless and other such characteristics. Fourth, when it comes to the attention of a person in a position of authority in government, they do not notice its significance in the first place. Fifth, when they do belatedly become aware of it, the Government responds to it in an alarmist and excessive way and overreacts to the problem. Sixth, when Governments are in panic and in crisis, what do they do? They go off and look for a judge to sort out the mess. Seventh, the judge comes in and clears up the mess. The eighth and final phase is the one we are in at present, where people thank the judge for having sorted out the mess that was in the political system in the first place.

Since I am in the eighth phase, I will play my role by thanking Mr. Justice Fennelly for the very detailed and comprehensive report his commission of investigation has prepared. It is a further example of how members of the Judiciary in this country play a valuable and important role in sorting out problems created in many instances by other arms of the State. It is sometimes not mentioned enough that the judicial arm of government in this country is one of the successes we have had since Independence. I may return to this point later.

It is noteworthy that it was on 25 March 2014 that the Government announced this commission of investigation was being set up to examine the recording of phone calls in Garda stations. When I went back to look at the debate from 26 March 2014, I was particularly interested to see the contribution of Deputy Shane Ross, who was Deputy for Dublin South in the previous Dáil, although he has not been seen much since then. This is what Deputy Ross said in response to the Government announcement that it was setting up a commission of investigation:

It defies credibility. Two days ago, there was a Cabinet crisis of a fairly hefty dimension and, suddenly, to the rescue comes this bombshell of news about the system containing tapes which nobody knew about before. That was no coincidence. It is quite obvious that several persons were sitting on this ready to release it at an opportune time ... It came to the rescue and it also served the Minister's, and, indeed, the Government's, purpose well in that it accelerated the resignation of the former Commissioner ... There is no doubt about that.

I hope that, in due course, the Taoiseach, when he locates the Minister, Deputy Ross, will ask him whether he still maintains those views. He should ask him whether he still maintains this was no coincidence, but rather that it was an elaborate scheme to deflect attention from what happened to the former Commissioner.

There are a number of noteworthy points that we can identify from Mr. Justice Fennelly’s report and I want to point them out. We know that between 1980 and 2013, non-999 calls to and from Garda stations were recorded. We know that this recording was unlawful in that it did not have a statutory basis, nor was it lawful under common law, and it was also in breach of the constitutional right to privacy. We know that the commission found no evidence of widespread abuse of the system and that the recording was caused by confusion, ignorance and misinformation. We know that the commission heard evidence from five former Commissioners and the current Commissioner and none of them was aware of the systematic recording of non-999 calls. In particular, none knew that the main station number at divisional stations outside the Dublin metropolitan area had been recorded as a matter of routine since 1995. We know that the commission has concluded that the recordings did not constitute an offence under section 98 of the Postal and Telecommunication Services Act 1983 because they did not take place in the course of transmission.

We know that, in November 2013, the Office of the Attorney General was informed of these recordings. We know that, in November 2013, when the then Garda Commissioner was informed of these recordings, he directed that they cease immediately. We know that, on 10 March 2014, the Commissioner wrote to the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality providing full detail on the issue. The letter was not brought to the attention of the then Minister. We know this letter was also not brought to the attention of the Attorney General but she was given a copy of the letter of 19 March 2014 that had been written by the Garda Commissioner to the Data Protection Commissioner. We know that, on the evening of Sunday, 23 March 2014, the Attorney General briefed the Taoiseach and the Secretary General to the Government. The report of Mr. Justice Fennelly states at paragraph 1.2.30: "It is inescapable that the Attorney General presented an alarming picture to the meeting, to such an extent that the Taoiseach was, as he says himself, shocked.” We know it was decided on the following day, 24 March 2014, that a commission of investigation would be established to look into the telephone recording issue. We know Mr. Justice Fennelly in his report notes that the Attorney General told the commission that the Taoiseach was very seriously concerned and immediately indicated that, in his view, given the gravity of the matter and the public importance of trust being restored and maintained in the Garda, a commission of investigation was warranted and that nothing less would be acceptable to allaying every public disquiet and anxiety.

I want to pause there and say it is extraordinary that the one person who actually did something about this, the Commissioner who stopped the recordings, is the one person in all the dramatis personae who lost his job. It is also surprising that there was no discussion between the Office of the Attorney General and the Minister for Justice and Equality in November 2013, when the Office of the Attorney General became aware of these recordings. What it reveals, I regret to say, is the serious lack of communication that then existed at the top of Government and which led to this unnecessary crisis.

I said at the outset that there are eight stages to how we create, maintain and respond to a crisis in Ireland. Let us look to see how this should have been dealt with when it was discovered that the calls were unlawful. Had the issue been considered, discussed and deliberated upon in a considered and careful manner, then there would have been discussions between representatives of An Garda Síochána and officials from the Office of the Attorney General, who would have discussed it with the Minister for Justice and Equality or officials from his Department. The Department of the Taoiseach would have been brought into the matter only when a resolution had been reached. That is how this potentially serious issue should have been dealt with at the time. Instead, there was an overreaction. In fairness to the Taoiseach, his reaction was based on advice given to him. The overreaction was that the Taoiseach believed the prisons were going to be emptied, that criminals were going to walk free and that decisions of tribunals would be overturned. There may have been validity to some of the concerns at the time but it is clear that the concern itself was significantly overestimated.

One aspect of this is worth pointing out. The Taoiseach may legitimately say, or he is saying, we should not have had a commission of investigation. In my opinion, it was right that we had a commission of investigation. There were serious allegations put into the public domain. The allegation was that members of An Garda Síochána were involved in an abuse of public office and some pernicious conspiracy to undermine the rights of individuals before the courts and while they were being considered before trial.

It is clearly in the public interest for wrongdoing to be disclosed. Similarly, however, when there is no wrongdoing, it is equally in the public interest for that absence of wrongdoing to be disclosed. We know from the report that the activity was unlawful. It arose, however, as a result of inadvertent mistakes and misunderstandings. We now need to implement the recommendations of the report, as identified by Mr. Justice Fennelly. We need to put in place a legislative framework to make lawful the recordings of conversations in Garda stations. There is a public benefit in having telephone calls to Garda stations recorded. It is in the interest of the public and An Garda Síochána. We also need to examine the offence of interception under the 1983 Act to determine how we can make it more effective.

I thank Mr. Justice Fennelly. The work done is an important illustration of the important role the Judiciary plays. I acknowledge the Taoiseach is going to introduce some legislation in respect of reforming the Judiciary. I ask him to be careful before he hands over control of that reform to his Minister for transport, judicial reform and local Garda stations.

I too welcome the report and express our gratitude to Mr. Justice Fennelly for the work he is doing. When part one of the Fennelly report was published in 2015, we in Sinn Féin said the Taoiseach's spin on it was not credible. We believed it was clear at the time that sending the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality, Mr. Brian Purcell, to the home of the Garda Commissioner, Mr. Martin Callinan, had the obvious effect of conveying to Commissioner Callinan that he should resign. The Taoiseach's spin at that time on the findings of the report, which contained evidence of serious and multiple Government failures, was simply not credible. In response to all that at the time, Fine Gael and its partners in government focused entirely on political damage control instead of attempting to address the root cause of the problem in An Garda Síochána. We in Sinn Féin tabled a motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach and the Attorney General following the Fennelly commission publication. We did not do this lightly. The Taoiseach and his Government failed to take responsibility for their actions in the whole affair, and the Attorney General changed her testimony to the Commission, which in itself was a shocking indictment. Since then, we have watched as the current Garda Commissioner, Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan, became the subject of a tribunal of inquiry. She remains backed by this Government because the potential consequences of not doing so might trigger a general election.

The latest Fennelly report extensively criticises the Garda Commissioner and some of her colleagues due to her failure to respond properly to the recording of non-999 calls in Garda stations. News of this emerged first in 2013 but the report is clear that the Holness trial in 2011 should have flagged the issue to senior gardaí. In that case, the presiding court judge ruled that recording all incoming and outgoing calls in the station was a breach of the law. While the ruling, and the clear statement that the calls in that case were obtained unlawfully, was conveyed to Garda headquarters in reports from various senior members, nothing at all happened. We know that Mr. Martin Callinan was informed of the ruling but was never told that the recordings in question were of non-999 calls, which means he either believed 999 calls were no longer allowed to be recorded or that most senior gardaí in the country simply never thought to ask. He did stop for long enough to write a note to Ms Nóirín O'Sullivan, the then Deputy Commissioner, to ask the legal implications of the ruling but the person who was to replace Mr. Callinan as Commissioner never replied. If she did, the reply was never made public or given to Mr. Justice Fennelly. The information eventually made its way to the crime policy unit of the Garda, and the people whose job it was to come back to the Commissioner on it did not do so.

For nothing to happen following systemic incompetence of that level is astounding. Even when GSOC flagged that this was something to be addressed, nothing at all happened. It was not until 2013, when the Ian Bailey tapes were discovered, that more general inquiries were instituted by Nóirín O'Sullivan, which led to the story breaking of a more general recording system that involved the mass illegal recording of phone calls in and out of Garda stations, including those between citizens and their solicitors. It was Ms Máire Whelan's outlining of the potential ramifications of this for trials that led to Mr. Martin Callinan's retirement.

The second Fennelly report is clear that the illegal mass recording is not due to a deliberate abuse of power but is, rather, the result of ignorance among management. Importantly, however, abuse of the system is not ruled out in the report. The system was abused. That nobody has taken responsibility for this beggars belief. That the Taoiseach, who made decisions, has not taken responsibility is shocking but not surprising. While the second Fennelly report does not contain the extent of criticism of the Taoiseach or the Attorney General, as the first Fennelly report did, it does conclude that, had further explanations been sought around the recordings, events in reference to the resignation of Mr. Callinan would undoubtedly have been different.

This week we have a debate on a motion in which we ask the Government to use its power under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to remove Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan from her post while she is subject to the investigation of a tribunal. The Government rode roughshod over this process, over the legislative provision, when it suited it to give Mr. Callinan the boot. It suited it because it was politically expedient for it to get rid of Mr. Callinan at that point and then to accept the resignation of Mr. Alan Shatter. Meanwhile, the Taoiseach and Attorney General are still in their posts. Of course, they are not the only people affected by the outcome of the Fennelly investigation. In this report, we also see how the gardaí investigating the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier were prepared to look at altering, modifying or suppressing evidence that might speak in favour of Mr. Ian Bailey. We acknowledge that while the report states no evidence was actually tampered with, it still found evidence that gardaí were willing to allow or encourage false allegations to be made. Members of the public will hear this and quite legitimately wonder where else, and in what other cases, was there a garda willing to alter evidence to secure a desired prosecution.

There are decent gardaí trying to get on with their work on the ground, but the system itself is completely dysfunctional. We know that, in regard to the illegally recorded telephone calls, there is no allegation of systemic abuse of power, but we do know that in one call investigated a garda is recorded as threatening a member of the public with a false accusation of assault against a child. What would happen in that case?

The truth is that, in all these circumstances, there is a huge problem. The problem is at the very core. In the Taoiseach's speech, he said the commission makes damning findings about the lack of evidence, oversight and procedures within An Garda Síochána over a lengthy period. Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has been at the very head of An Garda Síochána for a lengthy period.

The truth is those at the very top who are being protected by the Government are the ones who are the problem and the Taoiseach and the Government need to deal effectively with that problem. Having more reports and more situations where we have various inquiries, tribunals and commissions will never get the solution that the people need. What the people need is to restore trust in the Garda Síochána. The ordinary citizens of the State have lost trust and, when they have lost trust, the Government has lost the confidence of the people. The only way to restore that is to remove Nóirín O'Sullivan, to have a clean out of those at the very top and, indeed, around the country. There are many individuals within An Garda Síochána whose contribution to policing seriously needs to be looked at to determine whether it has been a positive one. The Taoiseach will be aware of that.

Fennelly is another example in all of this. Fennelly finds that the senior officers in An Garda Síochána did not know that this was going on yet all of them came up through the ranks. They all were inspectors, superintendents and chief superintendents in the various districts around the country and their role in all of those positions over the past 20 years would have been to monitor and be aware of the data and communications in all of those district stations around the country. The reality is they knew all about it. Unless Ministers open their eyes and sort out this problem, we will be in a desperate situation. We already are in a desperate situation because the people have lost trust. The only way to restore that trust is to deal with the situation.

Fennelly did a particular piece of work. That work is only a small part of the jigsaw. It is time to act to clean out the rubbish that is there and to put a proper policing policy in place so the people can have confidence again.

There is a Groundhog Day aspect to this Dáil week. Two Private Members' motions about gardaí and their Commissioner, and then this report from Mr. Justice Fennelly. What connects this report with the other events is the consistent level of official Garda ignorance about what seems to have been happening right under their noses. We discussed yesterday how over 145,000 District Court summonses for road traffic fixed charge offences were wrongly issued at the behest of the Garda, how 14,700 of those cases resulted in convictions and penalties wrongfully imposed, and how each of these cases must now be brought back to court to have its verdict reversed. Then there was simultaneous news that the Garda Síochána was withdrawing its breath test data because it was irreconcilable with data from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety. The scale of that discrepancy is breath-taking. The Garda claimed almost twice as many tests as its memberes could ever have carried out. How or why did this happen? The official line is a vague one: that there is no one single reason. When asked if gardaí had been making up the figures, Assistant Commissioner Michael Finn said, "I don't know. Certainly they weren't recording them correctly." The Garda Commissioner has acknowledged that it "may well be" the case that gardaí deliberately entered false information on to the PULSE system. They have been examining the issue for some time now and they seem to be no clearer or closer to a credible explanation. That is really hard for anyone to understand. More worryingly, a further review of the classification of incidents by gardaí, including domestic violence incidents, is now under way. Apparently, the AGSI, at its conference, is as baffled as the rest of us. Now this report, and a judge who is baffled as well.

My party believes this state of affairs highlights the chronically dysfunctional state of Garda management. According to the narrative of events accepted by Mr. Justice 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. 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.

Nobody, least of all Garda management, knows what the system was all about and why it was replaced twice. 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 and most current and former divisional chief superintendents but just one of 14 former regional assistant commissioners and exactly 0% of the commissioners and deputy commissioners.

I referred earlier to this level of official Garda ignorance, and its consistent application across all the current controversies besetting the force. That is perhaps the benign interpretation. More hard-nosed commentators refer to a culture of omerta, a great corporate silence that descends on the force and its members collectively. I do not know whether any of the current and former gardaí who took part in Mr. Justice Fennelly's voluntary surveys to assess the state of knowledge of all this in Garda ranks could have told him more than they chose to do. It is, I suppose, in the nature of things that none of us will ever know but it is depressing that so many of our fellow citizens are willing to assume as much, as a matter of course. It is dispiriting that so many seem so unsurprised, and even unconcerned, about what is at a minimum a monumental failure of governance.

In that regard, I have to say I am disappointed that Mr. Justice Fennelly raises his quizzical eyebrow, not just at gardaí and their management but at those in government who reacted so swiftly and decisively when all this was discovered. It is bizarre to categorise as "alarmist" those who were alarmed, as the judge seemed to do in his first report; it seems unfair. I believe their response was not only legitimate, but the only legitimate response, particularly when one bears in mind Mr. Justice Fennelly's key finding, which was postponed by him until this final report. That key finding is that the installation and operation of this system was not authorised by common law or statute law, that it operated in breach of the Constitution and of constitutional rights, that it breached the European Convention on Human Rights and that it also breached European Union law and the EU Charter. 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. I repeat that it was quite properly a matter of utmost concern to the previous Government when this was discovered.

It is quite simply bizarre that this system could have been in place for decades under the noses of Garda management. 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 to not only the Minister of the day but also its own Commissioner and senior management.

Even taken fully at face value, these findings point to a profound failure of governance, both within the Garda and in the parent Department. The previous Government was quite right to raise concerns, not only 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. Mr. Justice 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 motive but there was no proper motive either, no thought-out policy or purpose at all.

This whole sorry saga reinforces our conviction in the Labour Party that the systems and structures of Garda management are not fit for purpose and no longer command the confidence of the public or their representatives. More positively, it reinforces our belief that what we need now is an examination of Garda structures and processes that is sufficiently thorough and far-reaching that we can say we have put an end to our fire brigade-style response to successive Garda crises and that we have resolved the issues, if not for good then at least for our political lifetime.

The Fennelly report tells us many things. I want to focus on what it tells us about one matter, that is, a murder investigation. I am talking, of course, about the investigation into the murder of Ms Sophie Toscan du Plantier at her holiday home in west Cork in December of 1996 - an horrific crime.

The murder investigation team was based at the Garda station in Bandon. Their phone calls were recorded without their knowledge. The Fennelly report tells us that all bar a few of the tapes were destroyed in a flood at the station in November 2009. I wish to read into the record of the House part of what Mr. Justice Fennelly states about this issue in his report:

It is of serious concern that, in the small [number] of recorded calls available to the Commission, evidence is disclosed that members of An Garda Síochána involved in the investigation, including the officer responsible for preparing the report for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, were prepared to contemplate altering, modifying or suppressing evidence.

However, Mr. Justice Fennelly makes the point that the commission found no evidence that such actions were actually carried out. The report focuses on two instances in which gardaí appeared willing to contemplate allowing or encouraging false allegations to be made or false evidence to be given. The report highlights the case of an unnamed detective sergeant who considered doctoring a written statement prepared by another officer and removing detail from a second statement. A curious incident from June 1997 is recorded in the report. It concerns the case of a local Teachta Dála who was told over the phone that Mr. Bailey's rearrest was imminent. I wonder how common it is for Deputies to be informed of the next move in a murder investigation.

The question can be asked: is this a complete outlier? Is this murder investigation of a type which occurred in Bandon station but could occur nowhere else in the State? Are there other stations where murder investigations are carried out in this way or similar ways? This was a horrific murder, and whoever was responsible needs to be brought to justice, but the approach taken, as highlighted by Mr. Justice Fennelly, would undermine the chance of justice prevailing and does a complete disservice to the murder victim.

The issues focused on by Mr. Justice Fennelly in the report are just the latest scandal in a series of policing scandals in this State. We have had the scandal of what was attempted to be done to Sergeant McCabe, the way in which the other whistleblowers were treated, the faking of nearly 1 million breath tests and the nearly 15,000 false convictions. The Government talks about a root-and-branch review and assessment of the role of the Garda Síochána. It uses the example of, and quotes as a reference, the Patten inquiry into the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The Patten inquiry recommended the disbandment of the RUC.

I wish to outline aspects of our position on the question of the way forward for policing in this State. In the first instance, there should be an inquiry but it should not be an inquiry by the establishment into the establishment like so many other inquiries we have seen in the past. The ordinary people of this country whose taxes fund policing services and who are the policed, to put it that way, should play a decisive role in any inquiry, assessment or report that takes place. The biggest organisation representing ordinary people in this country is the trade union movement. There are, I think, more than 500,000 trade union members in the State. A way should be found for them to have a significant role to play in any such assessment. There needs to be a way for people who come from the thousands of communities across the country that are policed and for representatives from those communities to play a role in any assessment. This would represent a decisive role for ordinary people.

We need to see the removal of the Garda Commissioner from her position. Her position is untenable. We need to see the removal of the top brass from An Garda Síochána. It becomes increasingly clear that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Are reforms needed? Absolutely, but the sheer number of reforms required, and the far-reaching nature of many of them, means that what is required is a sharp break with the current policing model. Effectively, we need a new and different police force.

A cornerstone of policing must be the decentralisation of policing services. All these scandals have happened in a very centralised police force, which is unaccountable in any real sense, and that is not an accident. In reality, what we need is a series of local policing services. There needs to be democratic community control over policing. Local police services need to be run by democratically elected local committees. These committees should be allocated budgets and should decide the policing priorities in their own areas. They should be able to direct resources accordingly. There will, from time to time, be a need for initiatives and resources to organise policing on a national level, but the power should be delegated upwards, not in a top-down fashion as is currently the case.

There is no room for political policing. Special units, such as that appointed for Operation Mizen to spy on anti-water charge campaigners, should be disbanded. This would also involve the disbandment of the Garda special branch.

Policemen and policewomen should have the right to join a trade union. They should have the right, through their organisations, to have access not just to the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, but also to the Labour Court. More than that, they need full trade union rights up to and including the right to strike. However, with rights come responsibilities. Never again should the communities in this country which the police are meant to serve be treated in the same way that communities were treated during the anti-water charge campaign. We saw the arrest of nearly 200 such campaigners over the course of those few years. In our view, that is a scandal on a par with all the others.

In a capitalist society, policing serves the interests of the ruling elite - in today's society, the interests of the 1%. Instead, we need policing which serves the interests of society and the majority in society, namely, the 99%. That is what we fight and campaign for and what we will continue to fight and campaign for.

In some ways, the report is a little like the much awaited sequel to a Hollywood blockbuster: the second version never really cuts it like the first. That is not a reflection on Fennelly but it is a reflection on the fact that, despite the hyping up of this issue, it was never a case of covert mass surveillance of the population ruthlessly organised by An Garda Síochána. That is not to say I do not think the Garda is morally capable of that; I just do not think it has the wherewithal. It is too disorganised to pull off something of that nature. Mr. Justice Fennelly gives an incredibly accurate portrayal of the technical, procurement and management systems that led to this debacle in the first instance.

He gives a very good legal oversight of the illegality and unlawful nature of this practice and he should be complimented on that. What does it say that the Government and the hierarchy can take relief and breathe a sigh saying it was only ignorance and that it was not malpractice, and thank God we are not corrupt, we are only incompetent? What the Fennelly report says is scathing. The report says "senior management of An Garda Síochána failed to formulate or promulgate any policies or directives", that there was a "failure to draw up any formal set of rules" and "that there was a great deal of confusion, amounting to ignorance" as well as "fundamental and regrettable defects in how the NICE recording system was managed" and so on. Mr. Justice Fennelly said the decision to set up the system in the first place was based on a misunderstanding by the fella who signed the order, and then it was just built upon after that. If one reads the report, across the whole thing we have statements being made which say one thing and the gardaí who read them - or do not read them - drawing a different conclusion.

It is incredible, unbelievable stuff which amounts to mass ignorance, until it gets to the Holness case in Waterford. Let us remember that that was the first time GSOC initiated a criminal investigation. Three gardaí were convicted of assaulting a citizen. It was a very serious case in the course of which evidence was attempted to be introduced of phone calls, including from those stations. The judge said the recordings had been obtained in an unlawful manner and were therefore inadmissible. It is very clear in the Fennelly report that that information was immediately given to the hierarchy of An Garda Síochána. It is also clear that former Commissioner Callinan acted upon it straight away. He sent an instruction to Nóirín O'Sullivan to ask what were the legal implications of the ruling, an explicit ruling which said it was unlawful and there were questions regarding the evidence. We know that Assistant Commissioner Ludlow also faxed Nóirín O'Sullivan about that. She responded in one instance to John O'Mahony saying that he should report on the question as a matter of urgency but he did not and she did not follow it up. Years later, they said they did not actually know it meant non-999 calls, even though when GSOC wrote to them it specifically spelt out that it was questioning the lawfulness of incoming and outgoing phone calls. How could an outgoing phone call be a 999 call? It was very clear what they were being told but either they did not have the ability or did not care enough to take it to its logical conclusion. That in and of itself is disgraceful. It is also disgraceful that they did not consider, even without the Holness case, the question of the legality of the entire practice to begin with, in particular in light of the phone tapping scandals in the State previously. Those points need to be taken further as they are very serious.

I wish to put on record that the handling of the situation by the former Commissioner Callinan, as we said following the previous report, was perfect. It could not be faulted. Of course he was not sacked because of that. It was all the other stuff which we have put on record previously and about which we said he should have been asked to stand down, but in this instance he handled it perfectly, unlike the Attorney General who, as other Deputies have said, has a huge amount to answer for. How that woman was reappointed is beyond me to be honest, because she did present an alarming picture despite the evidence that was presented to her. We know that she substantially altered the evidence she gave to the Fennelly commission. She excluded the Minister for Justice and Equality from those situations and her actions were not rational in light of her statements. They did not follow a reasonable sequence. That is the person from whom we must take legal advice on a range of issues. That is a very worrying situation and there is a lot to be answered in that regard.

The main point on which I wish to concentrate is paragraph 1(m) in the terms of reference. Mr. Justice Fennelly was asked to examine whether the recordings of the investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier "disclose evidence of unlawful or improper conduct by members of An Garda Síochána". The bottom line is that they did. Mr. Justice Fennelly said he viewed that term of reference as a preliminary task for the commission "to report on the existence of evidence that might warrant further investigation". The evidence the report unearthed in the tapes, which is not isolated from the evidence that was in the unpublished internal Garda report into that situation, and the court cases concerning Ian Bailey, means that does warrant further investigation. For the Government to say it will refer it to GSOC to see if it wants to have any further investigation is not good enough. The evidence is before us of a willingness to falsify, alter and suppress evidence. A young garda said Jules Thomas, Ian Bailey’s partner, was being truthful and trying to recollect the situation. Liam Hogan said: "it is in the statement, it has to be... [effing] taken out." He said they had to put a stop to this "honest man". Another garda said: "[it] undermines the whole thing" and "I will take that out so to fuck will I?" He said they could not have that. It is evidence of tampering with statements.

The Fennelly report did not rule in terms of the illegal drugs issue but the phone calls were tapped with the knowledge of the garda involved and much of the evidence would lead one to believe that there could be planting of drugs and certainly money was paid to a witness in that regard. We know of six different phone calls where Detective Garda Liam Hogan was telling everybody who rang the station willy-nilly that Ian Bailey was guilty. We know in the assault claim against Marie Farrell's husband how gardaí tried to curry favour with her as a witness in this case by pretending they were going to drop the charges. That is absolutely outrageous.

Two years ago I put on record that Ian Bailey’s legal team reckoned that the handling of his case had cost the State €40 million to €50 million. That is before all of the hours in assembling and analysing these tapes, which prove yet again the attempts made by An Garda Síochána to fit up this person, which has had an horrendous consequence on him, a huge human cost to his partner and leaves the family of Sophie Toscan du Plantier without any answers. It is particularly serious that this tainted evidence, which the DPP's report revealed previously, has been sent to France and is the basis upon which the French authorities are pursuing this man. It is not good enough. We need an independent commission of investigation now into that case.

Unlike Deputy Daly I did not read all of the report. I read less than half of it and that was tough going enough. I will not go over it all again. The scariest thing in what I read is that for me, sadly, things have not changed dramatically in how we do policing. There is still a serious lack of management in how the system operates and there is capacity for people to act without having to be accountable. There is very little transparency in how the force operates. As we have seen, when whistleblowers point that out, they suffer the consequences.

In his conclusion the Taoiseach said, "It is also essential that the reform processes already put in train by this and the previous Government are sustained." As I said to the Minister in the previous debate in the House, we have been hearing that since 2014 and, sadly, things are as dysfunctional now as they were three years ago. The Taoiseach said also, "It is inappropriate and unhelpful to the reform process to seek to interfere politically with the statutory process of accountability which already exists through the Policing Authority." He talked about the independence of the authority. The authority is only independent in the performance of its functions, subject to the Act. According to the Act, all of the authority's powers and functions are either shared with or subject to the approval or consent of the Minister or Government. It is not independent. The Garda Commissioner remains exclusively accountable to the Minister rather than the authority. The Minister alone has the power to issue directives to the Garda Commissioner.

I, too, am delighted to get the opportunity to speak tonight on the Fennelly report. I will stick to the findings regarding the Tipperary division as I represent Tipperary with my colleague who is in the Chamber, Deputy Cahill, and others.

I thank the eminent justice and his team for the work they have done in dealing with this hugely significant issue. I thank the Minister for her briefing last week also.

Given that it is impossible to focus on all the issues raised, such as possible breaches of privacy, legal confidentiality and so forth, I will limit my remarks to putting on the record the findings the commission made with respect to County Tipperary and the Tipperary Garda division.

There is an adage that where Tipperary leads, Ireland follows. Unfortunately, in this case I hope it did not, although it appears that it did. There were 23 divisional headquarters identified in the 1995 Garda code. These divisions remained broadly the same over the following 20 years. Each of these divisional headquarters developed its own practices around telephone recording. This is part of the problem. They appeared to grow organically in many divisions and do not appear to have been directed by Garda headquarters in any meaningful way. It is similar to the helicopters spreading fertiliser in the forestry, which appears to be very organic. It was not possible for the commission to pinpoint the exact date of the installation of recording devices in each case. It beggars belief that it could not get that information from An Garda Síochána.

However, the commission gives a list of approximate dates for when the equipment was installed in each division. It notes that for the Tipperary division the recording devices were installed on 24 November 1996. Of the two technicians working at Thurles Garda station who gave evidence to the commission, one said that he was aware of the NICE model of recording policy document emanating from the telecommunications section, while the other said he was not. It is a 50% failure rate immediately. As a matter of practice, they responded to verbal and written requests for recordings without seeking authorisation from the superintendent. In or around 2010, the regional telecommunications sergeant provided a template form to be used by officers requesting recordings, but it appears they were not often used. One would wonder what was happening given that they were not used in the vast majority of cases. Only six such forms were produced to the commission in response to a request for the records kept. If a person was in school and he or she provided that type of result, that person would receive a bad fail. It would not be an E but a grade further down the line.

In terms of divisional stations and the solicitors’ telephone numbers gathered - this is huge - the Commission found that 166 numbers had been gathered while a total of 60 had been recorded. The calls of 60 solicitors in Garda stations in Tipperary were being recorded. Further results for the Tipperary division reveal that searches for telephone call recordings were made by the commission team on 11 and 12 August 2015. As I mentioned, it was found that a total of 60 solicitors’ telephone calls had been recorded in this division. To test these results, in or about March 2016, technicians at Garda headquarters searched the database for Tipperary for the period between 22 August 2008 and 19 August 2009. A total of 210,000 calls were found. A further search of the period from January to December 2012 was conducted and more than 150,000 calls were found. That is a total of 360,000 calls recorded, unknown to solicitors when they were dealing with clients detained in the Garda station. One wonders who could have the time to listen to the calls and why there were so many recording devices. What was the need for it?

The commission further informs us that one of the technicians stationed in Thurles, during the early period of the digital audio tape, DAT, system, employed a different system from the other technicians regarding requests made to him for copies of recorded calls. He would locate the relevant call and prepare the machine to make a copy of the recording, but would then ask the member seeking the recording to press the record button. Clearly, it was to ensure he would not be identified as doing the recording. In his view, this meant the member requesting the call was then responsible for the recording and for making any statements of evidence that might be required relating to it. The technician told the commission he did this to avoid having any involvement in the process beyond the purely technical aspect of locating the call. This member transferred from Thurles in 1998 and his approach was not adopted by any other member.

All of these issues reveal an incredible lack of oversight and managerial guidance from those at the top of An Garda Síochána, not the ordinary gardaí who, as I said last night, provide a very thin line between people and violence, all kinds of debauchery, attacks and crime. They always stand in the face of death and adversity. Many rank and file members had to use their own discretion and judgment in the absence of a coherent policy on these matters. This is borne out by the finding of the commission that the technician stationed in Tipperary in 1996 did not recall ever seeing instructions from his chief superintendent. However, he developed his own policy regarding the tapes which was to similar effect, that is, retaining the tapes for 30 days. He told the commission he adopted this practice because it was similar to that used for the storage of videotapes of closed circuit television, CCTV, footage.

Two tapes recorded simultaneously in the DAT recorder. In the other divisions, this meant that there were two identical copies of the recordings and the two tapes were changed at the same time. In Thurles, however, the technician staggered the tapes and one tape was changed every fortnight. For a period of two weeks, therefore, there were two copies of each call available. After the two week period, only the recording on the tape was available. This was then kept for one month. From 1998, a new technician was stationed in Tipperary. He continued the practice that had been in place before his arrival and the DAT tapes were kept in his office at Thurles Garda station. They were kept in a wooden cabinet. The cabinet was not locked but the door to the office had a key code and was locked. This technician was not aware of any policy relating to the retention or storage of the tapes.

I do not know where we will go with this. I do not know how the senior people in the Garda can wash their hands and plead ignorance, and I accept that the Minister cannot give the answers either. I thank Mr. Justice Fennelly for doing so much work. I tried to access telephone calls that I made one night in 2006 to Dungarvan Garda station. I made two calls but I could not get the calls. They were not recorded as they were inward. They were of a distressed nature. When I sought the records I could not get them. I received blank pages for an entire weekend of calls on my telephone. Somebody is praying for me because, thankfully, a few days later the full records came from Eircom with the calls I had made. How do I know what telephone calls were listened to during that period and during the following court case in which I was involved? I must talk to the Minister face to face about this at some stage, with her permission. Thankfully, I was never detained in a Garda station but how can I know whose solicitors' calls were being recorded?

I realise it is sub judice but there is an ongoing, and very weird, case in Dungarvan in respect of a member of my family. I was in the same place at the same time but no statements were taken from me, nor were statements taken from my daughter or from 20 or 30 people who were there. A charge has emanated from it. It is downright disgraceful. There is another superintendent in that station running amok and doing what he likes. I will greet him head on in the courts and will deal with him. He will not get away with this one, but it is a mockery.

That is not in the Fennelly report.

Of course, but I am personally involved in a situation and I wish to put it on the record that I am not happy. As the Minister knows, I support the Garda Síochána, at least 99%. However, where there are bad apples they must be rooted out, and bad practices also must be rooted out. People are getting this type of treatment. They are entitled to their good name, which is all one has, and to due process, not to the selective sending of certain statements to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, which happened previously in my case, with others not being sent. I will speak to the Minister privately about that.

I welcome the report. There is much work to be done as a result of it.

The Fennelly report is another absolutely damning assessment of the upper echelons of An Garda Síochána and Garda management. An alarming situation emerged in which a number of ex-Commissioners, a serving Commissioner, and their deputies were allegedly unaware of the existence of the practice of recording non-999 calls. Mr. Justice Fennelly has had to take at face value their accounts and their apparent lack of knowledge of the practice of recording those calls. In view of the fact that all of those gardaí were progressing through the upper levels of An Garda Síochána over the past 30 years, it paints a picture of a glaring disconnect between Garda management and its officials. At a basic level, there is an apparent lack of understanding of the implications of the data collection, data control and data retention procedures.

The decades old practice of recording calls was fundamentally changed by one garda in the course of upgrading the telecoms hardware equipment at divisional stations. A garda in charge of the telecoms sections of the force appears to have kicked all of this off. This garda, who was in charge of a specialised section - I stress a specialised section - did not have a full grasp of the technologies he was installing or their capabilities. These changes have proved to be a consequential shift in policy across the telecoms operation of An Garda Síochána about how certain information and intelligence was gathered and possibly used. Such a shift, if it was to be implemented, would normally only be made by top management.

The lack of good governance and the lack of procedures and rules to be adhered to has again come to the fore in An Garda Síochána. A situation developed in which it was left to the telecoms staff at each divisional station to implement their own rules around what was recorded, who would have access to recordings and what was to be done with them when they were no longer required, which is just as important. That is the door which was opened to further abuse of the recording facilities.

Members of Bandon Garda station investigating the du Plantier case recorded a line that was not authorised by the telecoms section. To date, despite investigations, it still has not been determined how this situation arose. It is standard practice for every other organisation that takes calls from the public to be obliged to inform callers that the call may be recorded for whatever reason or to ask if consent is given to that recording. It is very difficult to see how the question of what led An Garda Síochána to believe that procedure did not apply to the recording of non-999 calls can be answered.

The fact remains that An Garda Síochána has in its possession, by virtue of this illegal practice, a huge volume of recorded sensitive material about citizens in this country. It is becoming increasingly clear that the State and its institutions have a sense of entitlement to the personal data of its citizens and are far too relaxed about it. The Data Protection Commissioner's warnings of late are indicative of a deep-rooted problem which goes way beyond An Garda Síochána.

In relation to this report, the Attorney General did not go to the line Minister in the first instance. There is a question there that absolutely has to be answered. Was there some reason there was no trust between the Attorney General and the line Minister? Why did the Taoiseach not go directly to the line Minister? I think they are fair questions. They are fair questions that the Taoiseach needs to answer because it seems there is something not routine about this. It does not matter who that line Minister was. There is something very odd about that practice and about what happened. It is absolutely essential that these questions are fully replied to. The Taoiseach asked the Attorney General to go back and check the information. She came back empty-handed. Obviously the visit to the Garda Commissioner on the Sunday night happened. That whole area requires a proper reply.

To finish up, I feel really sorry for people in An Garda Síochána who are out doing their work every day and who are trying to do it to the best of their ability. Morale is definitely on the floor. It is one crisis after another. It is essential that morale is rebuilt, but it will not be unless trust is re-earned. Re-earning trust is about addressing issues and about those kinds of questions being answered. Why, for example, was the line Minister bypassed in this particular instance by both the Taoiseach and the Attorney General? Was their some lack of trust? What was the reason for that?

It is right that I should first acknowledge the very valuable and painstaking work carried out by Mr. Justice Fennelly and those who supported him in his work. It is a relief that what the report finds and what it sets out is not a history of anything approaching a deliberate abuse of power by An Garda Síochána and that we are not facing a situation where criminal cases are being jeopardised.

None of that, however, can hide the fact that for many years calls were recorded by An Garda Síochána in a manner that breached people's fundamental rights. As Mr. Justice Fennelly puts it, "the entire history of the matter is associated with error and misunderstanding". I said in the House last night that problems were allowed to accumulate over many years, indeed decades, in An Garda Síochána which were not properly addressed. There is no need for me to repeat the detail of what is in the report but I think it represents overwhelming evidence of that proposition.

I have also set out in detail our proposals for reform of An Garda Síochána. Of particular relevance to some of what is outlined in the report is the making of senior civilian appointments to the leadership team in An Garda Síochána. In particular I would say one is executive director of legal and compliance and another is chief information officer. We can see the very central role of ICT and the importance of having the highest standards available. We discussed it at my Estimates discussion earlier this morning. That is why the Government has made more than €300 million available for ICT.

Aside from the extensive programme of reform which is already under way and which, as I said earlier, must continue apace, the House will be aware that yesterday I circulated draft terms of reference for a commission of investigation into the future of policing in Ireland. I want that examination to be as wide as possible, and of course I will consider any more suggestions from the House before finalising those terms of reference. As they stand, they provide for a very thorough review of all aspects of policing in Ireland, including the structures, leadership, management of policing, composition, recruitment and training, and the culture and ethos of policing. They also account for all aspects of oversight and accountability. Many Deputies have talked about the range of oversight bodies that are in place at present and the need to examine that matrix of relationships, including with the Department of Justice and Equality and the Government.

Clearly the commission will have to take into account previous reports related to An Garda Síochána. This also means that it will take into account what is set out in the Fennelly report. It makes very specific recommendations. Some of these relate to legislation, and my Department is examining these. Others relate to Garda matters and I am asking the Policing Authority to oversee the implementation of these recommendations by An Garda Síochána. The report also refers to the Bailey case. There is a limit to what I can say about that because there are a number of related court proceeding going on at present. I am, however, aware that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has been investigating matters related to this case. In the circumstances I am forwarding the relevant parts of the report to the commission to consider whether any further action is necessary on its part.

On a personal level I want to say that I find some of the comments which have been made recently about the Attorney General particularly distasteful. She has never sought public praise or a spotlight for the work she has done. I expect she might be embarrassed by what I am about to say. It is the nature of the role of the Minister for Justice and Equality that there has to be contact with the Attorney General on a range of difficult, often pressing, issues and I have to say that in those dealings I have found her to be a beacon of knowledge, wisdom and practicality. She meets the enormous demands made on her with grace, fierce determination and no guides other than the law and the public interest.

There seems to be an implication in some of what has been said in the House tonight that the decision to establish a commission of investigation into these matters was rushed or disproportionate. The report gives the lie to that. People are in danger of overlooking one simple fact: if the Government had not established a commission of investigation at the time, the people who would have been loudest in their demands to have one established are some of those who have spoken on this issue in the House tonight.

As Deputy O'Callaghan said, it is important to look at how the future legislative framework is structured in the context of the new and different policing framework that we have. There is the Policing Authority, the Garda Inspectorate, GSOC and senior management in the force. We need to listen to what the AGSI has said about the number of bodies and agencies with which it is dealing. It is important that the commission will be able to look at the overall architecture of the Garda institutions to see how best the AGSI can interact with those institutions.

As we know, the Fennelly report looked back, from a historical perspective, at recordings that were illegal and unlawful. It is important that the Government addresses that legislative lacuna and ensures, as others have said, that this becomes a lawful practice.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Fitzgerald, mentioned that the Attorney General has a difficult job and has been criticised. This issue is not about personalising matters, nor is it about praising the Attorney General. It is important to recognise the mistake made by the Attorney General and the alarmist nature of her actions. That is reflected in the report and cannot be ignored. The Attorney General holds an important legal office in this State and she failed to bring the knowledge given to her to the attention of the Taoiseach in a speedy manner. The Tánaiste mentioned how, during their interactions, the Attorney General offered proper advice and wisdom. I am sure that is the case. However, the previous Minister for Justice and Equality was not informed about this matter by the Attorney General. Both he and the Department of Justice and Equality were ignored. The interaction between the previous Minister and the Attorney General did not live up to the words the Tánaiste has used.

We need to go through the timeline again. If one looks at the timeline, one can see why this matter gave rise to alarm on the part of the Attorney General and why it became an immediate problem for her. She received information in October and it took her a number of months to inform the Taoiseach. That flurry of events led to the resignation of the then Garda Commissioner. While the Taoiseach reiterated that he did not sack the former Commissioner, the interim Fennelly report says that the actions of the Taoiseach were a catalyst for the resignation. We need to look at the definition of the word "catalyst". In science, it is a substance that causes a chemical reaction to occur but is not involved in the act. In this case, the Taoiseach was the substance, the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality caused the act and the former Commissioner resigned.

The former Commissioner acted prudently in giving the advice and knowledge to the Attorney General. Unfortunately, the person who acted properly got the sack even though it was the lack of action on the part of the Office of the Attorney General which resulted in the alarmist and unfortunate move by the Taoiseach's office. That move has legal implications under the Garda Síochána Act. The Government was not consulted and that must be addressed in the context of this report.

The commission needs to look at the overall recommendations over 30 years. The Government needs to address the legislative lacuna and provide a factual account of what happened rather than using words such as "catalyst" when we know that there was a central involvement at the top levels of Government in the subsequent resignation of the former Commissioner who did the right thing at the time. That is very unfortunate.