You must see this film

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On Saturday night I was talking to Sean O’Byrne at the premiere of a film in the IFI. He is Christina Noble’s brother and the film was about her work and how it developed out of the injustice of their early lives.

I bought Sean a drink and we were chatting away happily when we were joined by a very pleasant, charming and well spoken man in his early sixties. They shook hands and Sean said without hesitation, “I can see your story is the same as mine.”

The hair stood up on the back of my neck. There was nothing in this man’s appearance that would suggest an early life of abuse at the hands of the church and the sadness of a family ripped apart by malign figures in officialdom. But Sean spotted it straight away.

They walk among us, that generation of poor children turned hurt adults. You will never know them unless they reveal their sadness and you may never understand the depth and breadth if that pain unless you see this film.

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“In a house that ceased to be” is the most honest and unflinching documentary film of its kind I have ever seen. You may think you’ve seen or read interviews that explain the work that Christina Noble does in Vietnam and Mongolia. You may think that you’ve seen or read pieces that explain the lasting damage caused to residents of Institutional Homes. You haven’t until you’ve seen this film.

Director Ciarín Scott (far right beside Sean in the pic above) has got inside a family deliberately thrown to the four winds by church and state. In an amazingly sensitive piece of journalism and film making she has got right under their skins and laid bare the lifelong toll of allowing monsters into the lives of children.

You have to see this film. You will have by now have heard about the more publicised movie “Noble” which is also about Christina. And I’m sure it’s a great drama, but you have to see this film, “In a house that ceased to be”.

It’s about Christina’s work, it’s about her sad childhood, her family’s painful reunion after 50 years apart. But that is a very prosaic description because it is about so much more.

It’s a meditation on good and evil, and how love and humanity can flourish in the face of unspeakable abuse. It is funny, infuriating, inspiring and sad. It is a part of what being Irish is sadly, and it is about those who walk among us whose pain you can never hope to understand.

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Christina rages in the film at one point about how it is impossible for her to explain what happened to those committed to the torturous care of those running Residential Institutions. At our talk after the premiere of “In a house that ceased to be”, she acknowledged this film does that job.

It’ll be screened on RTÉ next year and will pop up elsewhere between now and then. Go and see it.

http://www.inahousethatceasedtobe.com

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The law of god and the church, not a child’s feelings.

Almost literally the last thing Emily Logan did before leaving the Office of the Ombudsman was to send copies of a report (which it is not intended will ever be published) to the families of several children who have made allegations of sexual and physical abuse against teachers in their school. The nine children were all between the ages of 5 and 11 at the time of the alleged abuse which they claim was inficted on them at the hands of three female teachers.

I have seen that report, and people may be familiar with the allegations of the children from Justine McCarthy’s reporting of it in The Sunday Times. Emily Logan’s report finds that the HSE did not properly investigate the claims of the children even though they were numerous and in large part supported each other. It also finds the School’s board of management and the Department of Education were deficient in their actions too.

What people will find shocking regardless of whether there was any abuse or not is that as recently as 8 years ago, and with all the supposed checks and protections that exist, that this very serious series of allegations was never investigated properly by any of the people who were supposed to have children’s welfare as their number one priority

It started in the Summer of 2006 with allegations of bullying and physical assault being made by parents and children against one teacher at the school and unfolded horifically for all concerned over the subsequent two years.

“It was alleged that the child had been pinched leaving two bruises. The Parents of Child E made a formal written complaint to the chair concerning Teacher B, for the alleged assault, and the principal, for the handling of the complaint.”

The parents of another child also came forward with complaints of bullying and harsh treatment, this time against the principal

“The parents of Child A sought dialogue with the principal. The principal originally refused to meet with the parents until the allegation which the principal denied, was withdrawn.”

Those complaints were dismissed by the Board of Management at the school with no explanation of what had happened or consideration of the report of the child’s GP.

“The Board of Management at its meeting considered, in great detail, the complaints which you made and concluded the complaints are not substantiated.”

As the new school term began more disclosures were made by children and this time the allegations were of potential sexual abuse by the teachers.

“Children E and F alleged that teacher A had engaged in acts taking place in the toilet involving the use of a thorny stick that were physically and potentially sexually abusive of them”

The parents of children E and F made statements to the Gardai, but prompted perhaps by the summary dismissal of previous complaints by the schools board of management they met with other parents in a local community hall to discuss the allegations. At the conclusion of that meeting several parents were in tears. Three days later the parents of Child D came forward disclosing …

“…an incident of potentially inappropriate of potentially sexually abusive nature that occurred in teh school toilet between Child D and Teacher A when Child D was in Senior Infants. This involved assistance with toileting which the parent believed was not warranted given the age and development of the child.”

Of significance was that this child also disclosed that Teacher A had a stick. Two months later Child K and Child L came forward.

“The parent asked Child K if Teacher A ever took any children out to the toilet. Child K said that Teacher A would take boys and girls who were bold out to the toilet. Child K stated that if the thorn stick was in the classroom, teacher A would bring it out. Child K stated that the children would always be crying when they came back into the classroom. Child K recalled hearing Teacher A say to one child coming back from the toilet “don’t tell your mammy or daddy”

The Special Needs Assistant present in that classroom said that no such incident occurred. Child E was assessed by a psychologist who arrived at the view that it was impossible to determine conclusively whether the child had been abused or not. Anxiety over the allegations and their repeated discussion in the child’s home could have made the child suggestible. But the psychologist noted other things they found “Very concerning”

“Child E has described indiscriminate and frequent slapping of Child E and other pupils by Teacher A with sticks, one of which was described as a thorny stick. I am particularly concerned by accounts of the child and the child’s classmates being brought individually to the toilet and slapped there.”

The psychologist knew there was an ongoing Garda investigation but added the recommendation that the HSE “Investigate concerns regarding the use of corporal punishment and harsh treatment of pupils”

However when parents of the children asked the HSE what action they were taking on foot of the children’s disclosures they effectively said that whatever the school did had nothing to do with them. “… the HSE remit was in relation to the welfare of the children and that matters or actions in relation to the school were outside the HSE control”

 The HSE also did not inform the board of the school that the psychologist who had examined the children had recommended that the use of corporal punishment should be investigated. And somewhat improbably the HSE also told the Department of Education that it was, “not in receipt of a complaint of corporal punishment in relation to the any child attending School B”

Emily Logan’s report notes the case to be precisely the opposite of what the HSE stated.

Teacher A was placed on administrative leave by the board. Throughout the early part of that year more children came forward with more allegations of an overtly abusive nature. Child B reported being brought to the toilet by Teacher A who also brought the thorn stick.

“Child B also alleged that the stick was pressed against the child’s private parts through clothing. Later that summer Child B made disclosures involving a stick that were more clearly of a sexually abusive nature”

Child D came forward with a similar disclosure but only after the child had been taken out of the school and moved to another. Child D told a parent that Teacher A had hit the child’s private parts with a stick. The parents reported that Child D had stated that the child did not disclose earlier out of concern that the principal would be informed.

Child F made further extremely graphic disclosures. Allegations of physical and sexual abuse by Teacher A while the child was blindfolded. The child claimed Teacher B was present while the abuse took place. The child added that Teacher D had been told about the abuse and …

“The father stated that Child F said that the principal hurt them more than Teacher A and that they were more afraid of the principal.”

Child C came forward the following month reporting physical and sexual abuse in the toilets by Teacher A and that Teacher B and the principal had observed this. Of difficulty to anyone assessing the allegations was that these children reported seeing others being taken to the toilets by Teacher A but the parents of those other children denied any abuse had occurred. Indeed letters were circulated at the time claiming that Teacher A had the support of 90% of the parents in the school.

In August 2008 a garda file went to the DPP who recommended no prosecution. The principal was interviewed on the allegations by the School’s board of management and the board voted unanimously that the allegations were “without foundation, unwarranted and unsubstantiated”. A similar vote was held in Teacher A’s case, again it was unanimous, and Teacher A was invited to return from administrative leave. Both continue to teach at School B to the pres

The Children’s Ombudsman is not tasked with investigating individuals or establishing the truth or otherwise of the allegations made by the children. And the ombudsman notes that Teachers A and B and the Principal are entitled to and enjoy the full presumption of innocence.

That said you cannot escape Logan’s conclusion “Children A,B,C,D,E and F at various times made allegations of being hit by a stick. Many described the stick as a thorn stick. Children E and F complained at the time of being sore. Given the similarity in the allegations, this office believes that these allegations should have been investigated as allegations of potential physical abuse”

And not as corporal punishment as the HSE classified the claims. The Ombudsman says the HSE failed to investigate, as did the School’s board and the Department of Education should have been monitoring child safety more closely. This arose in part because Parents of two of the children attempted to get evidence from the board of management of the school about the implementation of the Stay Safe programme at the school. It had been introduced by the Department of Education in the early nineties and instructed young children in how to deal with unwanted advances and who to report them to. It transpired that the school’s policy on the Stay Safe programme regarded it as a …

 “…teacher’s aid to be used in accordance with the Catholic ethos which demands that the law of god and of the church, and not of the child’s feelings, be the guiding principle”

The child’s feelings were not the guiding principle in the school’s written policy at the time the alleged abuse took place eight years ago. The law of god and the church were. There is no mention of what the school’s policy on the law of the land is.

Emily Logan makes a number of recommendations for the HSE, The Department and The Board of Management of the school concerned. But clearly that is about process and procedure. The real issue is that there is a school in the system over which a major cloud now hangs because two of the accused are still teaching there, one is the principal. The Ombudsman couldnt say anything about the guilt or innocence of those accused – that’s not her brief – but she could not be more explicit about these allegations not being properly investigated.

Tusla – the child and family agency – which has taken over child protection from the HSE says it is considering the findings.

I’ve been in touch with parents of the allegedly abused children. They say the School, the HSE and the Dept of Education have been given four weeks to indicate how they are responding to this report. They too are waiting and watching.

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“We didnae have the guts to fail on our own like you”

I’m sitting at Gate 15 of Edinburgh Airport as I write this, waiting to board my flight back to Dublin. Next to the little Aer Lingus prop aircraft that’ll bring us home is a large grey RAF troop carrying aircraft. There’s three buses parked alongside and as I sat down the last of what I assume were young Scottish troops were boarding. Bound one assumes for unpleasant duty in any one of a number of global scrapes the United Kingdom is embroiled in.

How different that all might have been today. Even on the No side I didn’t detect any huge enthusiasm for Britain’s military adventures overseas. But that is not the way the Independence debate was framed.

Fear works. As a political tool its value has proven immeasurable to the Unionist parties. And that was those parties greatest success. Making a vote on self determination a vote about fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, and that deep seated fear in all of us that maybe we’re just not competent enough to do the job ourselves.

IPSOS/MORI polled Scots on their reasons for voting before going to the polls. It was striking that 80% voting yes did so out of a sense of hope whereas 58% of No voters were in their own words driven to the polls by fear.

“You’re Irish? I cannae hold my head up in yir company. I’m so angry that we didnae have the guts to fail on our own like you”, said one man yesterday morning just an hour or so after it became clear how sizeable the silent majority was. And how spectacular our failure has been in recent years I prompted him. “Dinnae matter, would ha’ been worse if somebody else had inflicted it on you.”

If all but one of your newspapers, a long line of business leaders, the machines of all the major political parties tell you something is to be feared chances are fear will colour your decision making. And it is striking now how yes campaigners realise how they were totally outclassed and outgunned by The Machine, that informal coalition of governing parties and business interests. Duly assisted by a media that reflects those priorities more prominently than others.

It was one of those lucky privileges that my job affords me to have been in Scotland to the energising of the country by a debate on what it means to be who you are. My last conversation before leaving today was with a 41 year old Taxi Driver who had never voted in his life before Thursday. He was well informed, taught me lots in twenty minutes, but just never saw the point in voting in Westminster elections when he knew he would always be unrepresented in the make up of the government.

In the drug and unemployment blighted suburb of Niddrie I spoke to young men who had never had a single days work since leaving school never mind having not voted before. They were passionate and convinced of their arguments. They were also flattered that for the first time ever their opinions counted for something. This debate delivered a super charge of civic mindedness, dynamism and inclusion to the Scottish national grid.

But the Westminster consensus has put the matter of Scottish independence back in a box. I’ve met and interviewed Nicola Sturgeon, she is a seriously impressive person. But she faces a Herculean task getting independence back on a ballot paper during her political lifetime. My colleague in The Irish Independent, Kim Bielenberg, was asked by an official in the Holyrood parliament if he was going to be there tomorrow. “Nobody is going to be here tomorrow”, was his brutally frank reply. The travelling circus has folded its tent and moved on. Scotland’s moment has passed, and won’t likely come again while anyone reading this draws breath.

There are two things about this campaign we might consider taking on board back at home. Telling 16 and 17 year olds they’re too immature to give proper consideration to electoral matters does us a disservice and infantilises them. Adults in Scotland were forced to listen to newly enfranchised teens and argue by persuasion not virtue of seniority. I ear wigged the bus stop conversations of loads of school kids during this campaign and was very impressed. The experience undoubtedly matured them and if some of them were swayed by arguments as superficial as which way Andy Murray did or didn’t vote how many adults must the same thing be true of.

The other thing … 86% turn out was achieved without a single politician’s mug staring down at you from a lamp post. Not a single poster on any form of public property. On this we can only hope Scotland will lead the way.

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“Little faith” in alleged Garda corruption probe.

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Shane Tuohey’s  body was found in 2002 in the River Brosna in Clara Co Offaly following a night out with friends. The Gardai were swift to conclude that Shane had killed himself but there was a lot of evidence – pointing towards the possibility of foul play – that was not considered by the guards in a timely fashion.

The scene where his body was found was not preserved for forensic examination. No attempt was made to recover CCTV of the night he disappeared and the one tape that was secured was subsequently lost. Allegations of an assault on Shane were not investigated until six months later. Gardai produced a witness statement from a woman claiming Shane was suicidal that was later denied in its entirety by the woman.

I investigated this case first eight years ago and to my amazement got a letter from the then Garda Commissioner admitting the investigation could have been “more professional”. But they stood by that investigation and the system has turned a deaf ear on the Tuohey’s quest for justice since then.

The Tuohey family have been dogged though. Gradually securing more and more paperwork that raises more and more questions about the Gardai’s prosecution of the case, and the Department of Justice’s commitment to transparency. They recently obtained one document that I had sought eight years ago. It bears a handwritten note which reads “Not to be seen by Philip Boucher-Hayes”.

This podcast from Drivetime is a short summary of a very detailed and complex case.

One of the first actions taken by Frances Fitzgerald when she suceeded from Alan Shatter at the Department of Justice was to establish an Independent Review Mechanism into the allegations of Garda Corruption made to Government. That review will now consider 220 separate cases including some allegations involving the possibility of wrongful deaths, of cover up or failure to investigate a crime and of possible Garda brutality.

Those making the allegations were promised that they would meet with the barristers conducting the review and would be able to present their grievances, but yesterday the Department of Justice confirmed to me that the review would be a paper only review.

Several I have spoken to are worried that if they are not interviewed the Independent Review Mechanism might be given a very partial or self serving version of events. Because the Garda file is by no means the totality of evidence that should be considered.

Given their history of antagonism with the Gardai and with the Department of Justice they say they can have little faith in a Review Mechanism that doesn’t at the very least hear from them. The Minister promised them they would now be heard, but many are feeling that the system is once again finding a way to turn a deaf ear.

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“Good afternoon to you” – sitting in the Liveline chair.

Working in RTÉ has afforded me many experiences as a journalist I would not have gotten elsewhere. Seeing history unfold for myself in the Balkans or the Middle East; a variety of challenging investigative projects; translating personal passion for food and farming into prime time documentaries and more besides.

Sitting in the Liveline chair for the last month now goes high up in the short list of memorable moments.

“But you’re a journalist, Philip. What are you doing refereeing that chimpanzee’s tea party?”, asked a sniffy friend after my first day on the job. It’s taken me a month to come up with a coherent response (I’m slow like that) but it’s obvious really that Liveline is one of the most fundamental journalistic processes;  Getting real people into a space where they can comfortbly relate personal experience that illuminates national debate.

Analysis of media organisation’s woes; the focus of journalism courses in a time of digital platform proliferation; debates about what journalism should be doing tend to overlook this one simple truism. Journalism is about telling people’s stories, and it’s at its most compelling when you find a platform that allows people to tell those stories themselves.

Much of our media is a starchy diet of comment, analysis (yes, like this piece) and political reaction. Media by wonks, on wonkish issues, to be consumed by wonks with a second course of the trivial hyperventilated over by the inane. So when you come across the person whose recent scrape or whole life story illustrates the bigger point they’re better than ten policy wonks or a month of Sunday morning panel shows.

Joe has created a space on a radio station that tends towards the cerebral where people are comfortable relating the most private details publicly. Yes, of course there are show offs and pub bores among the callers but the vast majority want to make a sincere contribution to the public discourse, and the national conversation is the better for it.

It is also for a presenter about as thrilling an hour and a quarter you’ll spend in front of a mic. When Joe Duffy shuffles off this mortal coil his adrenal gland needs to be donated to science. For it is either a tiny shrivelled pea having produced more adrenaline every lunchtime for the last 15 years than any other broadcaster has in a lifetime. Or he is a freak of nature with superhuman capacity to absorb the hormonal rush Liveline sends coursing through your veins.

There is no other programme I know where you will routinely walk into studio knowing you only have about twenty minutes worth of calls. You place your faith in those people to be sufficiently interesting to generate more calls. You place your faith in the call takers to make a quick assessment and turn around of what’s come in. You place your faith in the producers to have a Plan B … and a Plan C and D just in case. Because if they don’t you will literally be whistling Dixie to 400,000 people, and that is a lot of faith for an atheist and professional sceptic to be placing in anything.

And as the conversation unfolds there is another piece of mental gymnastics at which Joe proves himself particularly supple day after day. Working off a two or three line written brief about the caller you have to give them your complete, whole and undivided attention. It’s not a real conversation if you’re doing anything less. Except you’re also reading the briefs on the other callers, talking with the producer, watching the clock and counting your ad breaks, while dredging up facts from the murkiest recesses of your brain on topics you never expected to be talking about that or any other day. Syringomyelia in Cavalier King Charles show dogs anyone?

I’ve a new found respect for what Joe does and what he and the team have built Liveline into. His choice in ties is dubious at best and he walks around the office painfully slowly causing traffic jams wherever he goes. But the programme is the best kind of journalism in its class and it has been a privilege to babysit it for the summer.

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Tuam: New understanding

I’ve pulled in on the road back from Tuam in response to demand for a blog from those who missed this evening’s report on Drivetime.

That report (which I can’t podcast just yet) revealed new evidence that has emerged in Tuam about the nature of the burial sites in the grounds of the old Mother and Baby Home.

The most significant aspect to which is that at least one of the two plots possibly used by the Bon Secours nuns was not a septic tank as previously thought.

A woman has come forward who has related to me a credible first hand account of falling into a burial plot at the rear of the home in in the mid 70’s where she discovered a large amount of infant remains wrapped in swaddling.

Her interview suggests that one of the two spots where baby and child remains were placed could not have been a septic tank.

The Mail on Sunday has identified two sites side by side each other in its radar survey. Frannie Hopkins and Barry Sweeney discovered one as boys in 1975. The Mail called it Plot B.

Plot A is the square shaped one Mary Moriarty says she fell into in the 1970’s when the ground subsided. A child was found playing with a baby’s skull and when Mary and neighbours investigated she discovered a large underground space with shelves from floor to ceiling stacked with infant bodies. She says she saw in excess of 100 tiny figures swaddled and guessed from the size they were newborn or stillborn.

Subsequently she talked to a woman called Julia Devaney who had been a resident of the home and later an employee. By then in her late seventies she told Mary how she had assisted the nuns carrying dead babies along a tunnel running from the back of the home to this vault.

Now obviously it will take excavation to confirm any of this but her description of the space and the possible existence of a tunnel used to access this burial plot would suggest that plot A (whatever of Plot B) at least was not a septic tank.

Albeit untested and unproven this is significant anecdotal evidence from within the home that the nuns were burying children in these sites. That a skull was found with teeth suggests not all were stillborn.

It also raises more questions – why weren’t the nuns using the cemetery just on the other side of the road? Even if these were unbaptised remains there was an angels plot in that graveyard so it is perplexing why they wouldn’t have used it.

But it is yet more evidence that these remains were from the mid twentieth century and not from the famine era.

It still doesnt explain why so many died in Tuam and where they are buried.

But the most significant aspect to this information is this – whatever cruelties you could lay at the nuns feet, however harsh or medically incompetent the regime they ran was, it was always hard to believe that they would have knowingly put babies in a septic tank. Because there may have been a tunnel running up and into this vault/crypt/space – this one at least is highly unlikely to have been a septic tank.

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The tireless Catherine Corless has found documentary evidence proving the existence of a tunnel (WWII era proposals to use them as air raid shelters) and Frannie Hopkins has clear memories of playing in a tunnel as a child but not one that extended as far as the burial sites. So there is limited corroboration for Julia Devaney’s posthumous testimony but Alison O’Reilly of The Mail on Sunday tells me their GPR Survey showed no tunnel.

The other burial plot we cant say that of yet because the plans do indicate the presence of a tank in the vicinity.

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Cooke Report: Why it doesn’t support the “nothing happened” headlines

 

The die has been cast and the first news cycle after the publication of retired Judge Cooke’s report on alleged bugging of #GSOC produced a wealth of “nothing proved so nothing happened” type headlines.

Read it and you can’t come to the same conclusion.

The Wifi Threat

GSOC’s boardroom has a lot of audio visual equipment including microphones. Contained within this equipment was a device which had been tampered with and original manufacturer parts were found to have been replaced. This device – called 4B throughout the report – was repeatedly trying to connect with the wifi network in a nearby cafe. The significance of this was in the belief of Verrimus that an …

“eavesdropper could gain access to the microphone-enabled units connected on the network in the Boardroom and the Media Room and use them to listen to conversations in those areas.”

Further alarms were raised when during Verrimus’s security sweep Device 4B was observed to be connecting to the cafe’s wifi – with which it “exchanged 121 data packets.” One of GSOC’s officers was present when the data exchange occurred. He said …

I was told that the display that I was watching was a visualisation of data moving in and out of GSOC. …and data was coming into GSOC via the same device. I saw that and it went on for an extended period.”

Verrimus wasn’t asked to prove bugging was taking place only assess what threats existed. So the didn’t prove beyond all doubt that recordings of conversations that had taken place in the boardroom were being smuggled out of GSOC via a neighbours wifi. With the benefit of being able to review Bitbuzz’s own log of data exchanged on that network Judge Cooke says that nobody has provided him proof that that there was any content in those Data Packets. He says that it is possible that Device 4B

“could have continued repeatedly to probe for connection thus generating what appears to be a high number of data packets without necessarily transferring any corresponding high volume of actual data.”

The White Van

While Verrimus was conducting its second survey in GSOC one of GSO’s officers noticed a white van with blackened out windows parked in the street with a direct line of sight to the GSOC Boardroom. The officer who had extensive experience of counter surveillance walked around the block and saw two men walking together on three separate occasions. His evidence to the judge was that he “considered this to be a possible indicator of a surveillance operation in the vicinity of GSOC”

At the same time that this was happening the Verrimus operatives detected a fake UK GSM/3G mobile telephone signal which they concluded was an IMSI catcher capable of decrypting phone signals and stealing data. This was only ever detected by Verrimus when the White Van was present.

Judge Cooke finds an innocent explanation though. He made contact with a mobile phone operator who indicated to him it was “highly likely that the detection was caused by the testing of a new 4G installation by that network which is confirmed as having been taking place over the period of weeks during which the detection was made.”

As for the physical surveillance he concludes that Verrimus’s presence in Ireland could have raised suspicions about who they were selling their technology too and it might have been them and not GSOC who were being snooped on “such surveillance (if that is what it was) was directed at the activities of Verrimus operatives rather than at GSOC personnel.”

The Landline

The second threat to GSOC’s security identified by Verrimus was from the hands free landline telephone in Simon O’Brien’s office called a Polycom because it is used for conference calls. Verrimus conducted many tests on it but the final one was to send a burst of music down the line at a quarter to two in the morning with the express intention of letting anybody who might be listening know they had been rumbled. Verrimus then claimed the following happened …

“The test device was still connected and neither operator was touching the device. The device received a call in of around three rings’ duration. Meaning a person must have made a call to the device direct, as the organisation’s switchboard was on out-of-hours service.”

Their opinion of this was “The likelihood of a ‘wrong number’ at that time to that exact unknown number at the time of an alerting test is so small it is gauged at virtually zero.”

Who made the call then and why? Verrimus speculated that “the ‘listener’ found the intermittent music on the line at 01.40 hours an odd occurrence and without thought or consideration to the possibility of a counter surveillance operation decided to test the call line to ensure it was working. Assuming there would be nobody there at that time.”

Judge John Cooke’s finding on this middle of the night call back with a coincidence factor of virtually zero is very far removed from this morning’s headlines of “No evidence of surveillance found”. The judge can find no explanation for this occurrence and does not attempt to come up with a hypothesis.

It remains the case however that this ‘ring-back’ occurrence has not been explained and further extensive tests in conjunction with the device’s manufacturer would probably be required to advance the matter further.

 

In summary then the judge notes about the wifi that packets of data may have been exchanged between the device in the boardroom and a wifi network outside GSOC but it has not been proved to his satisfaction that that those data packets contained audio recordings of conversations that took place. He considers the legitimate testing of a 4G network as the “likely” but not proven explanation for a fake GSM network. And he cannot provide any explanation for why a phone with an unlisted number should receive calls in the middle of the night just moments after it has been tested for a tap.

Under the circumstances Judge John Cooke says he can only conclude “it is ultimately extremely difficult to determine with complete certainty whether unexplained anomalies of the kinds identified in this instance were or were not attributable to unlawful intrusion.”

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Judge Cookes terms of reference asked him to establish whether it was proved bugging took place. He could not establish that. The terms of reference did not ask him was there a sufficient amount of unexplained and coincidental activity to give rise to the justifiable suspicion that somebody was attempting surveillance. The headlines would be very different today if it had.

Separate to the technical anomalies there are now new questions raised in the report about the conduct of unidentified agencies possibly connected to the security services if not the security services themselves. When leaving Ireland via Dublin Airport two Verrimus operatives reported to Judge Cooke that having checked in and passed through security a man stood directly in fromt of them as they were seated and produced a camera from his shoulder bag.

They turned away to avoid being photographed but “the individual waited and when they turned back he photographed them. Mr described this as a “trade craft procedure” known as being “burned” which is a strategy used by the “opposition” to let them know that they are aware of their presence and that, in other words, “their cover has been blown.”

Verrimus was also contacted twice by a businessman who appeared to be attempting to influence the evidence that Verrimus would give to the inquiry. In a conversation recorded by Verrimus this man claimed that efforts were being made by the security services to place somebody inside the inquiry.

Caller: Well, you know, there is work going on behind the scenes there to put in a man in there who may understand the whole significance of it. Right. And I know that the boys in green are trying to get a man who is, let me say.

Verrimus: Is in to advise?

Caller: Someone who would know what he was on about, he would know exactly who I would be talking about right.

Not long after the inquiry had commence Judge Cooke says that the Department of Taoiseach passed him a letter which contained an offer of unsolicited help from someone who had worked in the Irish Defence Forces as an Intelligence Officer for over twenty years. Judge Cooke reports that “The Offer was not taken up.”

Who? Why? To what end? Prompted by who? Why did the Department of Taoiseach think it appropriate to pass this on?

All this leads you to the inescapable conclusion that while GSOC bugging was not proven there is far more to this episode than we yet understand.

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