Leaders' Questions

All last week Minister after Minister, including the Tánaiste, in the public domain asked the Minister for Justice and Equality to withdraw remarks he had made about the whistleblowers in the penalty points saga and to come into the Dáil to do so. There was a sense coming up to yesterday's Cabinet meeting that the Minister was under extreme pressure from his colleagues within the Cabinet, in particular. It was seen as a crunch meeting for him. We learned early yesterday morning that the Garda Commissioner had "resigned-retired", of which the Taoiseach made an issue. Will the Taoiseach confirm whether a civil servant did, in fact, go to the Commissioner the night before? This is in the public domain. I did not put it there, but the assertion was made on RTE's "Prime Time" programme. It is an important point that needs clarification. The Commissioner resigned and the Taoiseach brought me and Deputy Gerry Adams to his office to brief us on something that apparently was very new to him, the Cabinet and everyone else and that would merit the immediate establishment of a commission of inquiry. He said the Attorney General had gone to him on Sunday night about a specific case in which proceedings had been taken against the State and the discovery launched. We have learned from the Minister this morning that the Attorney General was aware of the case for about four months. We were also told by him this morning that there was a meeting on 28 February in the Department of Justice and Equality between officials of the Department and that they would have been aware of the recordings and the issue related to the specific case. The Taoiseach's presentation to us yesterday was that it was that very specific case that had necessitated the establishment of a commission of inquiry and that the matter was new. That is the point he made yesterday. Yes it was; the Taoiseach should not shake his head.

The Deputy should, please, ask a question.

Will the Taoiseach explain why the Attorney General did not go to the Minister for Justice and Equality in the four month period during which she would have been aware of both the specifics of the case and its importance? Why did she not go to the Taoiseach last week or the week before or the month before that because this was known within the system? That is now clear from the Minister's presentation this morning. Will the Taoiseach answer these two questions? Did a civil servant go to the Commissioner the night before his resignation and why did the Attorney General not tell the Minister for Justice and Equality about this case? Why did she only bring it to the Taoiseach's attention on Sunday night, given that she had known about it for quite a long period before then?

The answer to the Deputy's first question is "Yes." I thought it appropriate, given the information I had in my possession, that I should make the Department of Justice and Equality and the Minister aware of the gravity of what had been given to me.

To which question does the answer of "Yes" apply?

To the Deputy's first question.

Is that the response to the question about the Commissioner?

The Deputy should remember the questions he asked.

The question was about whether a civil servant had spoken to the Commissioner.

I know what questions I asked.

The answer to that question is "Yes." The reason is I thought it appropriate, given the nature of the information made available to me, that the Commissioner should be made aware of its gravity and how I felt about it and the implications.

For the Deputy's information and that of the country, I attended an occasion in Dublin on Sunday. In the morning I called the Attorney General who said she would be in the Department, as she normally was, preparing for Tuesday's meeting. She indicated to me that there was another matter that we should-----

Did the Taoiseach ring the Attorney General?

Please, Deputy.

Yes. She indicated that there was another matter of which I should be made aware, but she was not prepared to talk to me about the matter on the telephone.

Were there bugs?

Was the Taoiseach in a Garda station at the time?

Members should, please, settle down and allow the Taoiseach to reply.

Well Deputy Mattie McGrath may laugh.

I will laugh. The Taoiseach is the laughing stock, not me.

Please, Deputy, this is a serious matter. Members should, please, allow people to understand the replies.

Why was she not prepared to do so? Was it because it might have been bugged?

Had Deputy Mattie McGrath been apprised of the situation, he might have a very different view. In conversation with the Attorney General about the specific case referred to, I also received the information from her that the potential scale was far beyond the particular case. I want to make it clear that in the assessment of the contents of a small number of tapes that had been transcribed and assessed the most serious implications had come to light in the context of a case and possibly others. As Taoiseach, I thought that this matter was of very considerable concern in the sense of having confidence, public accountability and trust in the justice system. For that reason, I advised the Attorney General that all of the facts both of the individual case and the wider trawl should be assessed by somebody competent in the legal profession to see how serious the issue was. As I informed Deputy Micheál Martin, that was done all day Monday. I spoke to the Minister for Justice and Equality that evening. He was briefed on the issue in his Department for the first time.

Deputy Micheál Martin asked why the Attorney General had not made the information available before.

To the Minister.

The Attorney General's fundamental constitutional position is to give legal advice to the Government. She is bound to have all of the facts at her disposal before she makes a judgment.

It took six months.

The Deputy should, please, not interrupt.

I thought it right, in the interests of having a police force - An Garda Síochána - that stood up to scrutiny in terms of its competence and professionalism and in which people throughout the community could have faith, trust and belief, that I should bring the matter to the attention of the Cabinet. I know that the media focus was on crunch meetings to deal with the comments made by the former Garda Commissioner at the Committee of Public Accounts and the comments made by the Minister for Justice and Equality in the Dáil. The public comment was about what was going to happen, but this is a matter that goes beyond that because it does not just deal with a single case which I cannot name, as I explained to Deputy Micheál Martin yesterday, in the sense that there are now more than 2,500 tapes up to 2008 and from that period until the process was terminated last November. The recordings are in digital format and I do not know the extent or scale of what is involved. That is why yesterday the Government made very clear and particular decisions. What I want out of this is an independent statutory authority to deal with An Garda Síochána in which the people could have faith and belief that the matters that have come to light would be dealt with. They will be dealt with and I will see to it that they are. I want the Deputy to be as constructive as he can be in the fundamental issue that is at stake. While Deputy Mattie McGrath may laugh at the fact that the Attorney General did not wish to comment on this serious matter over the telephone, I completely reject his assertion. I felt it important that I talk to the members of the Cabinet, inform the public and Deputies Micheál Martin and Gerry Adams.

I never said anything.

Yesterday Deputy Mattie McGrath made the point that the GSOC report had referred to the fact that all of this had arisen from the Waterford case. The GSOC report referred to the particular case in Waterford police station.

It did not refer to the much wider trawl that has now brought to light more than 2,500 tapes and the rest from 2008 to 2013 that are of a digital nature. That is why it is important that there be a commission of investigation, hopefully conducted by somebody exceptionally competent from Supreme Court level, to look at the reasons for and the background to what this was all about. That is a fundamentally important issue for our country.

My intention here was to do what I thought was right and to do it immediately; having spoken to the Attorney General, to have that assessed, to have the facts as I know them to this point, to inform my colleagues at Cabinet and to inform the leaders of the opposition parties. I dealt with Deputy Murphy yesterday and my apologies to her for not having included her or a member of her group in that. This is an issue that we need to get right and that we will get right. That is the reason I acted in the way I did.

The Taoiseach did not tell us the full story yesterday - that is the point. He did not tell me about any senior civil servant going out to the Garda Commissioner. That revelation this morning, and its confirmation by the Taoiseach, tells me one thing; he said it to inform and convey to him the gravity of how the Taoiseach felt about the issues that were emerging. He essentially sacked him. That is what that means.

He did not go, he was pushed.

Calling a spade a spade, that is what that means. The context is appalling. Does the Taoiseach know why? Surely his official would have been told by the Garda Commissioner that he wrote about these issues two weeks ago to the Minister for Justice and Equality, that the Attorney General knew about them for four months and that officials in the Department of Justice and Equality knew about it. Forgive us all for thinking that the timing of all of this is extremely odd, coming at the end of the week that was in it. No one, it appears, saw any need to elevate this beyond what they were doing with it in terms of the Department officials, in terms of the case and how they were going to deal with the proceedings in a case that cannot be mentioned but which the Taoiseach's people have been briefing about all over the place. Yesterday the Taoiseach told me that he met the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality. Did he not tell the Taoiseach that the Commissioner wrote to him two weeks ago? The Taoiseach said he met the Commissioner about the specific issue. The Taoiseach told me he was aware of this issue but nobody else was. There were briefings by Cabinet Ministers yesterday to a lot of people to the effect there was an inextricable link between the Commissioner's resignation and the emergence of this issue. The spectacle that is unfolding is not a good or a nice one. The Taoiseach took issue with me yesterday about it being a retirement or resignation. He sent a senior civil servant out to the Commissioner the day before the Cabinet meeting and-----

-----everybody was asking the Commissioner to withdraw his remarks and the Minister, Deputy Shatter, to withdraw his remarks.

A question, Deputy, please.

The import of sending the civil servant out was clear. The next thing was that we will not discuss anything to do with whistleblowers or penalty points but we will discuss something else, something new, a specific case, important as it is, but it was not new at all. The Attorney General knew it and it is important that the Taoiseach confirms that he rang the Attorney General. The Attorney General did not come running to him breathlessly with this news on Sunday. Forgive me for getting that impression from the briefing yesterday, I might have been wrong. The Taoiseach made a phone call to the Attorney General and as another issue she raised this. It is an important issue but she could have raised it with the Taoiseach last week, two weeks ago or a month ago but for some reason she did not. I asked the Taoiseach one question, which he did not answer - why did she not raise it with the Minister for Justice and Equality because the proceedings are against the State, which normally includes the Attorney General, the Minister for Justice and Equality and so on because it relates to gardaí and so on? Why did she not do that? Does she talk to the Minister for Justice and Equality? Does it not seem somewhat dysfunctional to the Taoiseach that a conversation would not have occurred between the Minister for Justice and Equality and the Attorney General similar to the one that occurred between the Taoiseach and the Attorney General on Sunday?

This is the first time Deputy Martin has accused me of being a liar in here and of using some perception of authority to remove people from office. I deplore what he is suggesting absolutely. The position is that the Dáil was going to meet this week to deal with the question of the remarks by the former Garda Commissioner at the Committee of Public Accounts and the remarks made by the Minister for Justice and Equality here in the House. When I was informed on Sunday of the potential gravity of this situation, was I to come in here this week and pretend I was not informed about it formally by the Attorney General? Was I to sit here in silence-----


Hear, hear.

-----and say that this should be left alone, that all would be well on the day? Was it not the right thing to do to say this is a matter of exceptional gravity-----

The Taoiseach should have picked up the phone to the Minister, Deputy Shatter, and asked him what he knew.

-----both in relation to the case in question where there are serious implications arising from the tapes, small in number, that have been assessed, and I do not know what is on any of the other vast majority of these tapes or what is contained on the digital recordings? My concern was raised by the fact that in the Waterford case specifically that the justice ruled that this was inadmissible, so the legality of the basis of having these recordings and their retention was an issue that concerned me greatly. Was I to come in here this week and say everything is fine and rosy in the garden, the Minister, Deputy Varadkar, the Minister, Deputy Shatter, and the Commissioner have sorted out their problem-----

But they have not.

So there is a problem.

-----in the knowledge that up ahead lies the most fundamental issue in our society which is trust, belief and faith in the justice system? My job as Head of Government is to see it to that we do the right thing, and I make mistakes myself. I want to see a situation where whistleblowers under the legislation are protected and respected for what they do-----

Then respect them.

Tell the Minister that.

-----that the ordinary citizens have the opportunity to have faith and belief in the system-----

Why did the Attorney General not talk to the Minister for Justice and Equality and ask him questions?

Deputy, allow the clear explanation to be given.

-----and that we build a police force now to be around an independent authority that everybody can say this is the way it should be. Why is it Deputy Martin that we now have five or six different things going on in the Department of Justice and Equality-----

Because of the Taoiseach's Minister.

-----headed by the Minister for Justice and Equality because they have dragged on, Deputy Calleary, for years?

Ask your Minister.

Why did the Attorney General not talk to the Minister for Justice and Equality about this?

My job and the Government's job is to sort these things out, Deputy Martin.


Far from sweeping them under the carpet-----

Have them all talking to one another.

-----I believe it is right to address them-----

No one is talking to anyone.

-----I believe it is right to make decisions that will change them. I believe it is right to do the best thing in the interests of our people and the country and that is why I responded in the way that I did. I do not take any solace from what Deputy Martin said, that he accused him in here of being a liar or going around sacking Garda Commissioners. I thought it important that from my perspective-----

The Taoiseach did not tell me about that.

-----given the nature of what lies up ahead that I should have the Garda Commissioner apprised of my view of the gravity of this because when the Deputy and all his people-----

The Commissioner had written to the Minister.

We would not have heard about that either only for RTE.

-----wanted me to confront the Garda Commissioner, it would have been tantamount to expressing no confidence in the Garda Commissioner.

No, I asked the Taoiseach a question: why did the Attorney General not talk to the Minister for Justice and Equality? Can he give me an answer to that question?

The time is well expired. If the Deputies are not prepared to listen, I will move on.

I reject Deputy Martin's assertions.

What about the Taoiseach confronting his Minister?

It is actually beneath Deputy Martin to attempt to come in here and say something like that.


Hear, hear.

I call Deputy Adams without interruption.

Yesterday the Taoiseach told us that the Minister for Justice and Equality would clear up a number of very serious issues which are undermining confidence in the administration of justice and the gardaí. This morning, for example, the Minister, Deputy Shatter, had the opportunity to withdraw his disgraceful remarks about Garda John Wilson and Sergeant Maurice McCabe. He refused to that. Is that acceptable?

Yesterday the Taoiseach briefed myself and Teachta Martin, and I thank him for that. He told us that he was made aware on Sunday that there were very serious revelations emerging about the illegal recording by gardaí of phone calls in and out of Garda stations, but after the briefing it emerged that this practice had been brought to the Government's attention on at least three occasions, one, with the publication of the GSOC report in June 2013, two, with the discontinuation of this practice in November 2013 and, yesterday in this Chamber, I asked the Taoiseach if the Garda Commissioner knew of the phone recordings before he put in his letter of retirement. He refused to answer me. Now we know that not only did he know but that he wrote to the Government about this.

I have no reason to disbelieve the Taoiseach's assertion that he only knew about all of this on Sunday.

I accept the Taoiseach at his word, but is it acceptable to him that when the Department of Justice and Equality and the Minister are in the eye of a storm and a saga of tsunamis of controversies that he is not told? The Taoiseach was not told. What sort of Government is he running? We speak about dysfunctionality. Why was he not told? Personal loyalty may be an admirable trait, but I am sure the Taoiseach would agree it should not be put before the common good. If the Taoiseach keeps backing the Minister, Deputy Shatter, this is what he is doing. He is bringing his own office into this controversy by standing over something which is clearly and patently, leaving other considerations to one side and everything else out of it, incompetence, which is good reason to get rid of the Minister, Deputy Shatter. Will the Taoiseach reflect on all of this, step outside of his office for a moment, look at how this is seen by ordinary citizens and do the right thing and ask the Minister, Deputy Shatter, to go?

I thank Deputy Adams for his contribution. According to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission's report on the Waterford case the court referred specifically to the practice engaged in by the gardaí at Waterford Garda station, and the trawl conducted by the working group established by the Garda, and not associated with the Office of the Attorney General, came to the conclusion there were far more tapes than just those in the Waterford case. We now know the extent of the first tranche of these up to 2008. Beyond lie the digital recordings and I do not know the extent of these. This is why we have established the commission of investigation to examine this issue.

The Minister, Deputy Shatter, was not to deal with the question of the whistleblowers in this section of today's discussions. This deals with the revelation of the extent of tape recordings, what they mean and what they might mean for court cases which have been held or pending. Clearly there are implications for defence lawyers and people involved in court cases. I do not know the content of the vast majority of any of these tapes because they must be transcribed. They may be very ordinary queries about very ordinary matters. The point is that in the Waterford case Judge Reynolds deemed the information to be inadmissible.

I do not get a chance to read everything. Obviously I cannot do so. I was not aware, for instance, of the sad cases in the hospital in Portlaoise until the parents called attention to it. One must gets one's facts right and determine what actually happened. It is not related to the justice area but it is parallel.

In this case I went back and read the documentation about the O'Mahoney report in respect of the whistleblowers. I found there was not enough done by the Garda to engage with the whistleblowers presenting information. I expect the Minister, Deputy Shatter, to deal with this when he comes to address the Garda Síochána Inspectorate's report today.

He had a chance today.

I asked him two months ago.

It is important that when people attack independently appointed people they know what they are about. Deputy Martin chose at his Ard-Fheis at the weekend to attack an independent commission for deliberate political gerrymandering of areas for local elections.

Former Deputy Tully did not do it as well.

He has very conveniently retreated into his shell about this.

The Taoiseach has done a lot of that himself.

Deputy Adams is well aware it is critical the Attorney General has all of the facts at her disposal. The real issue is this had to be brought to a head because the discovery process in the case mentioned in particular had to be dealt with this week. The determination of the discovery included a number of tapes which have been assessed and which have critical information on them arising from conversations. In the course of all of this process of discovery the trawl suddenly discovered the extent and range of tapes throughout the country, up to 2008 and beyond in the digital area.

Deputy Adams asked me why the Minister did not use his opportunity this morning to deal with the whistleblowers.

He had no whistle.

The whole day will be taken up with justice matters-----

That tells one something.

-----and the Minister will not only come in but also deal with questions and answers arising from the report of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate. I hope this answers Deputy Adams's questions. My intention is to see all of these issues are sorted out and that we proceed following the Government decisions-----

Is there a civil servant looking for the Minister, Deputy Shatter?

-----to continue to sort them out and build an independent authority for An Garda Síochána of which every citizen in the country can be proud.

I am sorry to tell the Taoiseach it does not answer my question. I asked the Taoiseach whether it was acceptable, given that there is such a focus on malpractice and allegations of misconduct and illegality, that he was not told of these latest developments. He also did not answer my question yesterday when I asked whether the Commissioner was aware before he retired of the phone recordings, and of course he was. We are dragging this out word by word and sentence by sentence.

The practice of phone recording was first raised in the Chamber 20 years ago. Check it out and look at it. Will the Taoiseach take the opportunity now to apologise to the whistleblowers? Will he stand up now and exonerate these men, commend them for what they did and show them the Government's appreciation for the stand they took against the odds which will lead, we hope, to a better system of justice in the State in the time ahead?

I repeat what I stated earlier. Personal loyalty is admirable and the Minister may be all sorts of good things but incompetence is not a qualification for being a Minister for Justice and Equality. He should stand down and the Taoiseach should ask him to do so.

Deputy Adams is focusing on a head. That is what he wants.

A head. That is all he wants.

That is the Minister, Deputy Quinn.

Allow the Taoiseach to reply. We want to hear.

The Minister for Justice and Equality abolished the confidential recipient process because it was not working.

No, it was because he got caught.

The Minister for Justice and Equality was the first person to say GSOC was inadequate in its capacity, range and remit to do its job.

He referred the terms of reference to the Oireachtas committee representative of all people. The Minister for Justice and Equality appointed Mr. Justice Cooke on the Government's recommendation and Mr. Guerin SC to look into serious matters.

Deputy Micheál Martin waved a paper in front of me with 12 serious matters on it, ranging from murder to assault to brutality. Was I to leave this without it being actioned?

There is no commission of investigation yet.

The Government appointed an accomplished and competent criminal lawyer to look at them.

Why not a commission of investigation?

All of these issues will come back to the House and will be debated in public. Nothing will be hidden under the carpet like happened in years gone by.

What we are at is having openness and accountability because for me public accountability is critical for the integrity of the State and all its citizens.

There is not much of it going around.

I will take no lectures from anybody for doing what is right.

Will the Taoiseach apologise? Apologise now.

Apologise to the two Garda whistleblowers.

Send out an official.

What is right is to deal with these issues. Why leave these lingering sores which have been around for years?

It happens all the time.

Would you quieten down please?

Why not be able to sort it out? This is why the decision was made yesterday to deal with this in terms of clarity and building a new edifice and independent authority of which all citizens can be proud. Both parties in government had this as a central feature of their joint claims back in 2006.

It is not in the programme for Government.

If Deputy McGrath wants to laugh at something which is fundamental he may do so.

We will see who will have the last laugh.

Deputies should learn how to behave themselves when an important issue is being discussed.

The Minister for Justice and Equality will deal with the issue when he speaks on the Garda Síochána Inspectorate's report later today.

The Taoiseach is acting like a teacher again.

Why no apology? There has been a number of missed opportunities.

I call Deputy Donnelly.

Would you hold on a second, please? There are about ten discussions going on in the Chamber. This is Leaders' Questions and the public would like to hear the question and the answers.

They would like to hear an apology.

Members never get the answer.

Would you please stop making noise and allow Deputy Donnelly to ask his question?

Yesterday, the Taoiseach told Members that a group within An Garda Síochána, perhaps a secret group, has been bugging gardaí, Irish citizens and their lawyers for several decades. When I heard this, it sounded to me like the actions of the old Stasi in East Germany. As all Members are aware, the implications for cases before the courts and for existing sentences are unknown but may be profound. Members have heard allegations of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, being bugged. The report on penalty points has been published. The whistleblowers have been smeared both by their own Commissioner and by the Minister, Deputy Shatter. The Commissioner has resigned and now Members have received news of widespread bugging. Yesterday's news has shocked an already demoralised police force and undoubtedly has eroded further public trust in An Garda Síochána. The task ahead is herculean in respect of driving substantial change in An Garda Síochána and rebuilding the trust not merely of the public but of rank-and-file gardaí in their own police force.

I have a great deal of respect for the Minister, Deputy Shatter, as a legislator. His insolvency legislation probably is the single most important measure this Government has taken to solve the mortgage crisis. However, the challenges ahead must be led by a Minister who commands the respect of An Garda Síochána, the Oireachtas and the public. Regrettably, it is clear that the Minister, Deputy Shatter, no longer is that person. There simply are too many questions. Why did the Attorney General approach the Taoiseach rather than the Minister? Why has the Minister still not withdrawn his remarks about the whistleblowers? Why has the Minister still not called on the former Commissioner to withdraw his outrageous remarks about the whistleblowers? Why did the Minister attack GSOC when it raised concerns about being bugged? Why did the Minister fire the confidential recipient for doing his job? Why did the Minister use confidential information to smear Deputy Wallace on national television? Why is the Attorney General not willing to discuss sensitive information with the leader of this country by telephone? The Minister does not have the trust of rank-and-file gardaí. He does not have the trust of the Oireachtas. He does not have the trust of GSOC and he does not have the trust of the public. Moreover, he would appear not to have the trust of the Attorney General. While he may have the Taoiseach's trust, that is not enough for what must happen. Consequently, together with many others, I must ask the Taoiseach whether he will put the interests of An Garda Síochána and the public ahead of his loyalty to the Minister, Deputy Shatter, and ask for him to step back, based on the amount of work that must be done and the person who will be needed to drive that work.

Hear, hear. Send out a civil servant.

I thank Deputy Donnelly. I will put the interests of the citizens and the country ahead of everything else, be it the Government or any individual Minister. That is what is important here and that is the reason I decided to take the actions I took. The Deputy has mentioned a list of things. If the Minister for Justice and Equality had no relationship whatsoever with the former Garda Commissioner and was continuously at loggerheads with him, the Deputy would have a very different story to tell.

Members opposite all refer to too close a relationship. The Minister of the day has a duty, with the Commissioner of the day, to hear the complaints, anxieties and concerns about the running of the Garda Síochána, which is the remit of the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána.

It did not happen.

The Minister will deal with the question of the whistleblowers when he speaks on the report of the Garda inspectorate. The Minister himself was the first to state that GSOC, in the way it was set up, could not function to its full potential and was inadequate in a number of respects. This is the reason he wishes to change it and the reason an Oireachtas committee is considering these matters.

That is not what he said in response to the police Bill last July.

That also is the reason the position of the confidential recipient was abolished, because that process did not work either and because of the particular circumstances that applied there.

He did not deny the conversation.

The Minister was big enough to apologise to Deputy Wallace and to state he was sorry. As for the question of the Attorney General not speaking to me by telephone on a matter as great as this, it is a position I respect. I have made the point myself previously many times that if matters of this nature are to be discussed, they should be presented on a face-to-face basis.

Let me say to Deputy Donnelly that were I to come into this Chamber this week in the ordinary way and deal with the question of the remarks made by the previous Commissioner and by the Minister in the Dáil, to have our political rows and pretend to the Deputy that everything was fine-----

No one asked the Taoiseach that.

No one is suggesting the Taoiseach is doing that.

Everything is not fine. The matter must be dealt with in a way that builds a system in which there is belief, faith and integrity. This is the reason I considered it important to inform the Cabinet members and the leaders of the Opposition about the implications of what is involved in this regard. This is the reason the discovery process dealing with a particular case will bring to light issues contained on tapes that are critical. I will put it that way. It is important for me to have fed that into the system in order that people would understand the necessity to change that system. This is the reason the Government made clear decisions yesterday, will follow on from those and will implement them.

Is that for the Minister?

I seek, in the shortest possible time, a system whereby members of the force have absolute pride in the job they do - those who commit themselves to the protection of citizens from criminal or other activities - and that those who find there is something wrong have a system of being protected and are respected for what they do in the interests of having a system that runs in the manner one would expect in the 21st century. I thank the Deputy for his contribution.

I thank the Taoiseach for his answer. To be clear, I do not question any of the Taoiseach's actions in this regard. The Taoiseach is known as a man who values loyalty and is known as a man who is loyal to his friends and colleagues, which is admirable. However, this issue is not about loyalty. This is about an incredibly difficult and important piece of work that must be done to drive long-term meaningful change in An Garda Síochána and to rebuild public trust that has been shattered in An Garda Síochána. The Minister, Deputy Shatter, was in the Chamber to make a statement earlier and there are many things he could have said. However, he used the opportunity instead to attack Members of Dáil Éireann-----

-----to attack GSOC, to attack the media, to lay blame at the door of the Attorney General and to lay blame at the door of his own officials. That is what he did. He did not use the opportunity to accept any responsibility whatsoever for what has happened. Members have found out that the Garda, Irish citizens and their lawyers have been systematically bugged-----

-----and this was known in June 2013. However, when the Minister, Deputy Shatter, came into the Chamber today he did not accept any responsibility for not knowing that. He did not use the opportunity to withdraw his remarks about the whistleblowers, nor did he use the opportunity to address the remarks of the Commissioner.

A question, please.

Rightly or wrongly, the Minister, Deputy Shatter, no longer commands the respect of the groups of people whose respect he must command to do the job that must be done. It is for this reason that I and many other people believe he must now step back. I agree with the Taoiseach, as I am sure does every Member of this House, that the integrity of and public trust in An Garda Síochána are of paramount importance and that there is a difficult piece of work to be done. The question is whether the Minister, Deputy Shatter, is still the best Member of Dáil Éireann to drive that work, because I believe, regrettably, that he no longer is. Does the Taoiseach believe he is the best person he can find in his party or the Labour Party, based on what has happened, to lead that work?

I do not stand in judgment in a competition about the criteria to which the Deputy has just referred. Deputy Donnelly began his contribution by stating I had informed the House yesterday that a secret group were bugging gardaí. I made no such claim. I said it had come to light during the process of discovery that 2,485 tapes existed up to 2008 and that from that point until 2013-----

That was known for months.

Someone must have known.

-----these were recorded in a digital fashion.

This was in secret. It is called bugging.

Check it out with the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dowd.

Yes, but in the letter the previous Commissioner sent to the Department of Justice and Equality, he stated it has since transpired that the systems would appear to have been installed during the 1980s. Consequently, I ask Deputy Donnelly to get his facts right in this case. I did not state that a secret group within the Garda was going around bugging gardaí themselves and the public.

It is also important to state-----

Someone was secretly recording.

-----that since 27 November last year, the recording of non-999 emergency calls has stopped on the instructions of the then Garda Commissioner.

Nobody told the Minister.

Under the law, a right to privacy is given up when a 999 call is made, and one can understand that. The process of having conversations and calls recorded in a routine fashion in many stations around the country, which began back in the 1980s, ceased in November of last year on the instructions of the then Garda Commissioner and by his letter to the Department of Justice and Equality. That is an important point to make for members of the public who can feel free to make calls of a routine nature to Garda stations around the country in the knowledge that they are not now being recorded centrally or locally.

The other points Deputy Donnelly mentioned have to be sorted out, and they will be sorted out. It just shows one the scale of what needs to be done in terms of our justice system and our Garda Síochána force so that everybody understands the level of competency and professionalism it has. I get material across my desk and sometimes it is difficult to decipher what to do with it. The scale of charge can be grossly excessive in some cases but this is what we have to deal with, and this is what we will deal with.

The Minister, Deputy Shatter, is not liked by the Judiciary, he is not liked by the legal profession-----

He is not liked by his own colleagues,

-----and he is not liked by the gardaí. He might not be liked by a lot of people but he has the courage to deal with the truth and to change it when it is necessary in the interests of our citizens-----

How is his asthma?

-----and of our country. From that point of view, I would say to Deputy Donnelly that he has never been afraid to deal with what has been lying under a lot of carpets for many years. This Government will not stand for not having public accountability-----


-----and will have the courage to take on vested interests in the interest of our citizens and of our country, and I will stand by that on any platform.