Alan Shatter attacks Fianna Fáil over Garda allegations
Minister denies misleading Dáil over claims
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter addresses the Dail this morning. Photograph: Oireachtas TV
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter attends the Fine Gael launch of local candidates in the local elections for the Dublin Rathdown constituency in Sandyford last night. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times
In a statement to the Dáil this morning, he said there was no basis for an allegation he misled the House by claiming whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe did not cooperated with an investigation into his complaints.
And he said all allegations by the whistleblower were fully investigated.
He rounded on Mr Martin and rejected all allegations about his handling of alleged Garda misconduct. Mr Shatter insisted that none of the allegations the Fianna Fáil leader made were true.
“I think many of the former statesmen in his party would be appalled by the cavalier attitude he has taken to An Garda Síochána against whom he has made the most serious allegations without waiting to establish the truth or otherwise of them,” he said.
He said Mr Martin had come into the House last Thursday and his “dramatic appearance on the plinth last Wednesday, he raised these very important issues as if they were entirely new, had never arisen during his term in Government and had never been addressed previously either by the confidential recipient, An Garda Síochána by GSOC”.
In a 5,600 word, 30-minute statement to the Dáil, Mr Shatter listed details of the allegations made and the investigations that followed.
He said is was “entirely incorrect” to say that nothing had been done to deal with alleged Garda misbehaviour. And he said the procedures were “scrupulously observed”.
Mr Shatter said: “The allegations were dealt with under the procedures in place at the time and the confidential recipient, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission fulfilled their statutory roles in relation to them.”
The Minister said the Opposition maintained that a commission of inquiry was needed. He said Mr Martin and others clearly did so without knowing all the facts. He said Lorcan Roche Kelly, husband of murdered Sylvia Roche Kelly, and Sgt McCabe had each written to then Fianna Fáil minister for justice Dermot Ahern, “whom I do not hold at fault in any way”.
In reply, the Fianna Fáil leader noted that the Minister made no reference to the confidential recipient and his sacking of him.
Mr Martin said the Minister was challenged in 2011 that appointing a friend and donor might not be able to act fully and independently of the Minister. “And these fears have been fully realised, Minister.”
Mr Martin said it was not unprecedented for ministers - when presented with such serious material - to take action to hold independent inquiries.
Mr Martin highlighted the investigations including the attack on Mary Lynch, the kidnapping of a five -year-old child and the murder of Sylvia Roche Kelly.
“A young woman who was savagely beaten getting €150, €50 each from the attackers; a man who was savagely beaten and the case wasn’t put on the Pulse system for nine months,” he said. “We can have smokescreens all we like but the quality of the investigation system is at stake here”.
There is an ongoing and profound problem of how allegations of improper behaviour are handled, Mr Martin said. He said the relationship between the Minister, Garda Commissioner, GSOC and the confidential recipient was “at best dysfunctional and at worst actively subverting the goal of dealing with allegations of improper behaviour”.
Mr Martin told Mr Shatter: “You just don’t have the humility to say sorry that you got it wrong. You are the only person who accused Sgt McCabe of not cooperating with Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahoney’s investigation.”
He accused Mr Shatter of displaying “absolutely appalling” behaviour on the issue.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams told Mr Shatter the controversy had shown an “unhealthy closeness” between him as Minister for Justice and the Garda Commissioner.
Mr Adams commended the whistleblower and those who had persisted with their complaints for their strength of character given what was lined up against them.
The case for an independent inquiry into all the issues was “unanswerable” and the Minister, despite a lengthy speech, had given no response to prevent such an inquiry, Mr Adams said.
If the Minister had any wish to restore public confidence in the Garda, he had to allow an independent inquiry, he added.
Later, during leaders’ questions, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the senior counsel examining allegations of Garda malpractice and incompetence would engage directly with Sgt McCabe.
The Government yesterday appointed Sean Guerin, a barrister with extensive experience in criminal law, to assess the dossier handed to Mr Kenny by Mr Martin last week.
“We are moving here to a point where you have a criminal lawyer assessing the investigative methods and bring back a recommendation, hopefully before Easter,’’ he added.
Mr Martin said the Taoiseach should bring some “meaningful resolution’’ to the claim that Sgt McCabe did not cooperate with the investigation conducted by Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Mahoney into the penalty points saga.
He said Mr Shatter’s speech had not dealt with it in a comprehensive and adequate way.
“When you go through the record, it seems the only person in the entire system who made the accusation was Minister Shatter,’’ he added.
Mr Kenny said the Minister had tried very hard to set out his understanding of communication to Sgt McCabe, who, obviously, had a different perspective.