Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Questions (449)

Niall Collins

Question:

449. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason for the delay in correspondence sent by the former Garda Commissioner, Mr. Martin Callinan, being handed to the Minister. [15408/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Justice)

I am advised that on the same day as the letter was received there was a legal consultation on the Bailey case held at Garda Headquarters to discuss the implications of the recordings in that case, chaired by the Garda Commissioner and attended also by other Garda personnel, the senior counsel representing the State, the Department of Justice and Equality, the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Chief State Solicitor.

I am further advised that on the following day, 11 March 2014, there was a follow-up meeting between the Garda Commissioner, officials from the Department of Justice and Equality and officials from the Office of the Attorney General and the Chief State Solicitors Office.

I am informed that during the course of the consultation on 10 March and the meeting of 11 March the emphasis was firmly concentrated on the Bailey case, in particular the content of the transcripts of the telephone conversations between members of An Garda Síochána at Bandon Garda Station, between members of An Garda Síochána and Journalists and between members of An Garda Síochána and a third party who was ostensibly providing information to the Gardaí. Even though the Commissioner's letter of 10 March had referred to the systemic issue, I am also informed that there was little discussion of that particular issue and certainly not in any red flag manner. It may be the case that the explosive nature of the recordings in the context of the high profile Bailey case deflected the attention of those present at the meeting from the systemic issue. I understand that from the 10 March onwards, the matters covered in the Commissioner's letter were being considered by officials in the Department of Justice in the context of the ongoing legal consultation in relation to the specific case in question. It should be also noted that the following day, 12 March I published the Garda Síochána Inspectorate Report into the Fixed Charged Processing System. On the morning of 12 March I was taking Committee Stage of the DNA data Bill. I was scheduled at 1:30 p.m. to attend a meeting of Fine Gael Ministers and at 2:15 p.m. to attend the Cabinet meeting. After the Cabinet meeting the Garda Inspectorate report together with an accompanying statement was issued and at 6 p.m. that evening I was scheduled to launch a book on divorce law at the Distillery Building. I was present at the book launch until 8 p.m. that evening. The day after that, 13 March the Secretary General was appearing at the Public Accounts Committee, I was in the Department of Defence on 14 March and left for Mexico on 15 March to fulfil my Government duties for St Patrick's Day. I understand that subsequently, on 19 and 20 March 2014 Garda Headquarters copied the Department with correspondence between the Garda Síochána and both the office of the Attorney General and the office of the Data Protection Commissioner and further legal correspondence was received in the Department on 24 March. Due to a family bereavement the Secretary General was away from the Office from Saturday 15 March and did not return to work until Monday 24 March. The Secretary General briefed me on the matter on Monday evening. Subsequently, I and then the Secretary General, was called over to the Office of An Taoiseach to discuss the matters at hand.

As I have indicated I received a copy of the letter of 10 March at 12.40 p.m the following day. It was not until receipt of the letter that I learned of the various meetings detailed above taking place and of the background circumstances to my not being fully informed of these matters earlier nor receiving the letter of the 10 March 2014 shortly after its receipt in the Department.