Shatter apologises to Garda whistleblowers

Opposition says apology ‘too little, too late’ and Minister for Justice should go

Alan Shatter: had 

a strained relationship with the judiciary

Alan Shatter: had a strained relationship with the judiciary

Thu, Mar 27, 2014, 01:08

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has apologised to Garda whistleblowers Sgt Maurice McCabe and former garda John Wilson and conceded he had misled the Dáil on the issue.

Mr Shatter said he wished to correct his remark on the Dáil record that the whistleblowers “did not co-operate with the Garda investigations that took place”. He said: “It was never my intention to mislead the House and I believe it is appropriate that I apologise to both and withdraw the statements made.

“It was never my intention to cause any upset and, if any upset was caused, I hope that my correcting the record of the Dáil today will put this matter to rest.”

Mr Shatter said that in doing so he again acknowledged, as he had done many times previously, that the reports published and the findings and recommendations made regarding the fixed-notice charge system and penalty points were in response to the allegations made by Sgt McCabe and former garda Wilson.

Statement last October
Opening the debate on the Garda Inspectorate report on the fixed-charge processing system, Mr Shatter recalled that in October of last year he had made a Dáil statement that the whistleblowers did not co-operate with the Garda investigations that took place in respect of their allegations.

He appreciated, he said, that the statement had been the source of some upset and distress to the whistleblowers and he had looked again at the information available and considered the matter in detail.

He had previously stated, he said, that he expected Sgt McCabe would be interviewed during the course of the O’Mahoney investigation.

“I want to say very clearly that, having re-examined the facts and further considered the matter, I believe more should have been done during the course of the O’Mahoney investigation to obtain information from and ascertain the views and experiences of the whistleblowers,” he added.

“Further and better efforts could and should have been made to secure productive engagement with them in the investigation of their claims.”

Mr Shatter said he was firmly of the view that it was unacceptable for any member of An Garda Síochána to use their discretion relating to the cancellation of penalty points other than in a fair and impartial manner in accordance with the criteria which applied.

Serious matter
“It is clearly a serious matter where departures have taken place in applying that standard and all required steps must be taken to ensure it does not happen in future,” he added.

He said he hoped the whistleblowers could take some satisfaction from the considerable changes which had and were being brought about.

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins said Mr Shatter had taken the opportunity to make a long-awaited apology to the whistleblowers.

“People will wonder why it took him six months to do this, after all the kicking and screaming,” Mr Collins added. “What has changed that he has now decided to issue this apology?”

He continued: “The public had cast its judgment and the Minister has decided to make a last-ditch effort to save face and his own skin.” While he had reinstated the good names of Sgt McCabe and former garda Wilson, it was “too little, too late”, said Mr Collins.

Sinn Féin justice spokesman Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said the apology should have come from the Taoiseach, who should have sacked the Minister.