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Calls continue for clarity about Corrib bugging

News

Calls continue for clarity about Corrib bugging in Belmullet


Áine Ryan

CALLS for An Garda Síochána to reveal whether telephone bugging was extended to Belmullet Garda Station due to the Corrib gas controversy have been repeated this week as the Cabinet today (Tuesday) prepares to discuss the terms of reference of the Commission of Inquiry, The Mayo News can reveal.
Fianna Fáil Deputy Dara Calleary yesterday told The Mayo News: “If people have concerns about telephone recordings in Belmullet Garda Station [regarding the Corrib protest] they should be investigated. I hope the terms of reference due to go to Cabinet tomorrow will cover recordings from all over the country.”
These terms of reference are due to be agreed by the Cabinet in conjunction with the Attorney General, Máire Whelan, and the Supreme Court Judge, Mr Justice Niall Fennelly, who will lead the investigation.
In a written question sent to Belmullet Garda Station and the Garda Press Office yesterday, The Mayo News asked: “Can you confirm if taping of telephone conversations (either analog or digital) was used at Belmullet Garda Station at any point in the last 15 years?”
The response stated: “The Garda Commissioner is preparing a report for the Minister for Justice and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
Speaking earlier yesterday, Sinn Féin Cllr Rose Conway-Walsh said, ‘there is an urgency for An Garda Síochána to confirm that Belmullet Garda Station was not bugged’.
“It is very important the people of Erris are reassured that all of their dealings with An Garda Síochána were confidential during a very difficult time for this community,” she said. “Throughout the Corrib gas saga there have been many cases of people in the local community receiving convictions that were questionable. The fact that private conversations between lawyers and citizens may have been taped could give rise to these convictions being re-examined, or even overturned.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of community group Pobal Chill Chomáin, Mr Vincent McGrath, said: “We always operated on the understanding that we were being listened to.”
Mr McGrath continued: “Taping is so sophisticated nowadays, it doesn’t mean because Belmullet Station was not identified on the 2008 tender list for digital recording that it was not carrying out such surveillance. Castlebar, which is the Garda Divisional Headquarters for the Mayo area, was included in this list, and such operations could have been directed from there.”
He echoed former TD Dr Jerry Cowley’s call that undercover operations at Belmullet Garda Station must be included in any investigation. The Mulranny-based GP told The Mayo News last week that in light of recent revelations, concerns he had expressed in the Dáil in 2007 about his phone – and those of others associated with the Corrib protest – being tapped must now be re-examined.
At the time, he was assured by the then Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell that he was phone was not tapped.
Speaking last week, Dr Cowley reiterated the fact that ‘a series of unusual coincidences where certain people had knowledge of information they should not have been privy to’ had given him cause for concern at the time.
“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,” he said.

Inventory
DETAILS of an internal inventory of the taping of telephone conversations, seen by The Irish Times and reported on by former Editor, Geraldine Kennedy, last week, confirms that there were 95 dictaphone tapes returned from the Mayo division.
It has been confirmed that Castlebar is among the stations where the new ‘NICE’ digital recording system was installed in 2008.