Gardaí are investigating whether or not telephones at the Moriarty Tribunal were tapped in the days/weeks running up to the publication of last week’s report.
Present investigations are centred on the telephone of tribunal chairman Mr Justice Michael Moriarty in particular, following concerns expressed within the inquiry, that private information may have been accessed by an unauthorised third party.
Garda crime and security branch technical experts visited the Tribunal’s offices the week prior to Mr Justice Moriarty’s final report being published. It is understood that they found no evidence that current telephone apparatus in the office had been interfered with.
It is also understood that these investigation are ongoing and that gardaí are now looking at the possibilities of whether the exchange, through which the calls were routed, could have been accessed, which, although not impossible, is believed would be difficult to access.
The alleged breach of security was first reported yesterday evening by RTÉ, which said the tribunal had refused to further comment on the matter.
The tribunal report findings claimed that Mr Denis O’Brien made payments to the then Minister for Communications, now Tipperary North Independent TD, Michael Lowry, whom it states “secured the winning ” of the licence for Esat.
Note: Both men have rejected the report’s findings.
Similar claims of phone tapping in the past were made by the people of Erris involved in the Shell To Sea campaign who for a long time assumed that their phone calls were being monitored. This suspicion rapidly increased during the incarceration of the Rossport Five. Claims that some mobile phones were experiencing beeps and clicks, preceded by a ringing signal which resulted in calls having to be dialled more than once to get through, were reported, together with a tendancy for phones to ring briefly without showing a missed or received call.
In March 2007, Justice Minister Michael McDowell refused to reveal the number of phones taps he had authorised during his term of office. Although bugged phone conversations cannot be used as evidence in court, they can be used by gardaí to gather intelligence on suspects. In response to a Dail question, Mr McDowell said it would be contrary to the public interest to reveal how many phone taps had been approved by his department, or what categories of people were being targeted.
The Irish government agreed with its EU partners to introduce a system whereby it will be possible to monitor all aspects of global telecommunications. At present in Ireland there is a legal framework for allowing phone tapping under certain circumstances. This legal framework includes the tapping of all types of telecommunications including mobile phones, fax, telex, e-mail and all satellite based communications.