Wednesday, 20 January 2016
Order of Business
Maybe the Leader will consider, perhaps in the next term, reverting to taking the Order of Business at the start of the day, with the Commencement debate after that. It was more efficient and effective. I am not speaking on behalf of Fianna Fáil. The Leader could consider it in light of the current situation and the fact that an election is pending, which makes it more difficult to keep the House going than in normal times.
Regarding the review of the powers of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, GSOC, the appointment of the former Chief Justice and Attorney General, John Murray, will bring great experience to the field. However, the scope of the review has been restricted to access to the phone records of journalists, and does not include politicians. Why would a politician's phone be tapped? Why has the situation been left in doubt? I ask the Leader to ask the Minister to extend the scope of the review. It has been brought to my attention that some legal firms are very concerned about client confidentiality. A solicitor who feels his phone is being tapped has contacted me. I ask the Minister to extend the remit of the review to politicians and members of the legal profession, whether barristers or solicitors. Confining it to journalists is an inadequate response to the situation. Approximately 6,000 phones were tapped in 2014. It is a terrible infringement of human rights that confidential phone calls can be interfered with and listened to and the information distributed around GSOC and whoever else is involved.
The Minister has taken the issue seriously by appointing the former Chief Justice, John Murray. The remit of the review could be extended further to allow for the concerns expressed to me by members of the legal profession to be dealt with. The relationship between a solicitor or barrister and a client is very special. It is like a confessional situation and should not be infringed by the State, GSOC or any other agency of the State.