I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission was established under the Garda Síochána Act 2005 to provide for independent oversight of complaints made against members of An Garda Síochána. The commission has a hugely important role in ensuring public confidence in An Garda Síochána is safeguarded. It has extensive powers under the 2005 Act to enable it to carry out its responsibilities. The 2005 Act also provides for protocols on the sharing of information between An Garda Síochána and the ombudsman commission. These protocols set down time limits for the provision of information by the Garda for the commission. It is clearly important that any such agreed protocols be respected and any difficulties in this regard be addressed.
I met members of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission on 29 April to discuss the concerns they had raised in their 2012 annual report regarding delays in concluding their investigations and, in particular, delays in receiving requested information from An Garda Síochána. Concerns regarding Garda response times were also raised by the commissioners in the context of their recent public interest report which dealt with the handling of covert human intelligence sources by the Garda.
Following criticism in the Morris tribunal report, the Garda put in place revised procedures - a code of practice - for the management and use of covert human intelligence sources, including internal review mechanisms. In June 2010 the then Minister for Justice and Equality appointed retired High Court judge Mr. Justice Thomas Smyth as head of an independent oversight authority for covert human intelligence sources. In addition to monitoring compliance with the code of practice, Mr. Justice Smyth's remit requires him to communicate matters he considers appropriate, including recommendations, to the Garda Commissioner and report to the Minister for Justice and Equality annually on the discharge of his functions. As part of my response to the report by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, I considered it appropriate to publish the most recent report of Mr. Justice Smyth, in which he indicated his satisfaction that An Garda Síochána was in substantial compliance with the code of practice. I have also given a commitment to publish future reports from Mr. Justice Smyth.
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission's comments and recommendations in regard to procedures for handling covert human intelligence sources do raise a series of important issues. These are receiving my fullest consideration and, in the first instance, I am consulting Mr. Justice Smyth and the Garda Commissioner about them. I have also asked the Commissioner for his observations on the concerns expressed by the ombudsman commission in regard to the timely provision of information, following which I intend to convene a meeting with the Commissioner and the ombudsman commission to ensure outstanding issues have been fully resolved.
I expect to receive the Garda Commissioner's views in the next few days and hold the meeting within the next fortnight.