Shatter: Fennelly findings leave Attorney General's position "untenable"

A garda statement says issues identified by the Fennelly Commission will be “addressed as quickly as possible”

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Alan Shatter. Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated 09:25

The former Minister for Justice has said that the Attorney General's position is untenable after the publication of the Fennelly report.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast this morning, former minister Alan Shatter said the Attorney General, Máire Whelan “substantially overreacted” when reports of unlawful phone recording at garda stations first came to light.

He said Ms Whelan had shown very poor judgement in relation to the reports – adding that her position has been untenable since the interim report on the matter was published in 2014.

Mr Shatter resigned his position as Justice Minister in the wake of the revelations - but said he now feels vindicated by the report.

He said Justice Nial Fennelly's report highlighted “astonishing” actions by the Attorney General and called for her position to be reviewed:

“In any other European democracy, the Attorney general’s position would have been untenable after publication of the interim report,” he said.

“I found her conduct around this issue quite astonishing; I think it is very serious; I think it has resulted in consequences that should never have occurred.

“Her position remains as untenable, if not more so, today as it was at the time when the interim report was published.”

Garda Statement

In a statement yesterday, An Garda Síochána welcomed the findings of the report and said the issues raised will be addressed “as quickly as possible.”

It said the “extensive and detailed” findings will take time to study and review but said the commission had found “no deliberate decision or intention” on the part of the gardaí to use the system to record calls between solicitors and clients.

It also welcomed the commission’s statement that: “There was no Garda system of snooping, spying or intrusion into private lives.”

The force promised to undertake a “detailed examination of the report” adding that any issue identified will be “addressed as quickly as possible.”

The Government claimed the report reinforces its decision to undertake a root and branch review of gardaí.

The Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said it is reassuring that there is no sign the recordings were misused – with no convictions or prosecutions threatened.

Fennelly Commission

The commission was set up in 2014 to investigate telephone recording systems in garda stations around the country.

The report, published yesterday found that the practice of recording non-999 calls – which began in the 90s – was unlawful.

It found however that no criminal cases were significantly affected by the practice, adding that it was likely that no significant misuse of the information occurred.

It also cleared a range of state bodies including the Department of Justice, the Office of the Attorney-General, GSOC, the DPP, Chief State Solicitor and Data Protection Commissioner of having any knowledge of the practice.

It warned however that the findings are still “of great concern” – as the recordings were unlawful and had taken place without any effective oversight in place.

On Newstalk Breakfast, Irish Times political correspondent Fiach Kelly said the recording system was set up completely by accident.

“The system that recorded phone calls was upgraded in 1995 and then the Superintendent in charge of IT and telecommunications at the time okayed what he thought was the continued recording of 999 calls,” he said.

“But the way the system was set up he was actually okaying the recording of phone calls in and out of positional headquarters from 1995 onwards.”

The report found that the unlawful systems infringed on the personal privacy rights of those who were recorded adding that while there was no evidence of widespread abuse of the system – this could not be ruled out.