MAKING A CALL ?Former TD Jerry Cowley feels Gardaí need to answer questions about undercover operations connected to the Corrib controversy in Erris. Dr Cowley is pictured on his mobile at a St Patrick’s Day parade in Ballina.?Pic: Keith Heneghan
Concerns about Corrib phone bugging must now be re-examined – Cowley
A former TD complained seven years ago to then Minister for Justice Michael McDowell about his phone being bugged because he supported the Corrib gas campaign. Speaking to The Mayo News last night (Monday), he said that in light of recent developments in relation to calls being recorded in garda stations, now is the time for the Gardaí to answer questions about any undercover operations that might have been connected to the Corrib controversy in Erris.
“The question is, was Belmullet Garda Station bugging phones because of the Corrib campaign? And can any of the tapes now being examined answer questions I raised in the Dáil in 2007?” Dr Jerry Cowley asked last night.
“I have no doubt that whatever facilities the Gardaí had at their disposal at the height of the Corrib controversy were used by them. Such an approach was endemic at the time. Our campaign was always very transparent and open, and we held meetings every Sunday night that anyone could attend. But we always feared we would be infiltrated, and when there was a series of unusual coincidences where certain people had knowledge of information they should not have been privy to, it caused me great concern,” the Mulranny-based GP said.
Three years ago, The Sunday Times confirmed that in March 2006, a British undercover policeman infiltrated the Corrib campaign and advised Shell to Sea protestors on the best forms of direct action.
Dr Cowley said he found Minister McDowell ‘arrogant’ in his responses about the issue, and that generally ‘there was a wall of silence’ about serious issues raised by the community in Erris.
He said that the minister assured him that his phone was not being tapped and that he believed the minister at the time. However, ‘now, in the light of the dramatic revelations’ that have led Taoiseach Enda Kenny to implement a Commission of Inquiry, Dr Cowley would like the issue to be ‘re-examined’.
“I wasn’t the only person, associated with the Corrib campaign, who expressed concerns about their phones being tapped. They were met with a wall of silence, but perhaps the tapes that are now being transcribed will give us new answers,” he added.
In another development, South African archbishop Desmond Tutu is among a group of signatories who have supported a call last week by peace and justice group Afri for an urgent independent inquiry into the policing of Corrib.
The other signatories are former United Nations Secretary General Denis Halliday, former Garda Sgt Bernard McCabe, Guardian and Observer journalist Ed Vulliamy, UCD lecturer Andy Storey, actor and playwright Donal O’Kelly and human rights activists Nuala Kelly and Joe Murray.
THE Garda tape controversy comes in a week when Commissioner Martin Callinan unexpectedly resigned after weeks in the media spotlight over claims by Garda whistleblowers about the deletion of penalty points on the PULSE system by senior members of the force.
In the late 1990s, Mr Callinan served as a superintendent at Swinford Garda Station. Moreover, Mr Callinan was a close friend of another former Commissioner and Mayo native, Noel Conroy, with whom he served in several Garda stations in the 1980s and ’90s.
The former commissioner, whose mother was born in Claremorris, is a regular attendee of the Mayo People of the Year Awards.