Man held after break-in at Shatter's home


GARDAÍ WERE last night questioning a man about a break-in at the home of Minister for Justice and Defence Alan Shatter while he is away on an official visit to Australia for St Patrick’s Day.

The robbery occurred at Mr Shatter’s south Dublin family home late on Sunday night and the suspect being held was arrested a short time later.

The alarm of the property at Delbrook Manor, Ballinteer Road, Dundrum, was activated when the burglar gained access to the house. It is believed he got in through a window at the rear of the house, but once inside the alarm was sounded.

A uniformed garda on foot patrol in the area was the first to reach the scene after he was alerted by a colleague via his radio that the alarm had been activated at Mr Shatter’s house.

On arrival at the scene the garda went into the house. After establishing that none of Mr Shatter’s family or the burglar were inside, he secured the property.

A number of his colleagues then arrived at the scene and a search of the surrounding streets was carried out.

Some time after midnight, a man whom gardaí believe was behind the incident was arrested in the vicinity.

He was held under section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act and was taken to Blackrock Garda station. He was still being held there last night.

The suspect is a man in his 20s and is known to gardaí in south Dublin. He is regarded as a repeat burglar. Garda sources said they do not think there was any political or other more sinister motivation for the incident.

“It’s not clear if the person who broke in knew whose house it was and that the Minister was in Australia and his family also weren’t there, or if somebody didn’t see any activity at the house for a few days and just decided to break in,” said one senior Garda source.

Mr Shatter’s visit to Australia would have been common knowledge because his office over the weekend released photographs to the media of him meeting senior ministers in Australia.

Mr Shatter’s house was examined yesterday by members of the Garda Technical Bureau in an effort to gather forensic evidence that might prove the man being held had been inside the property.

The suspect can be held for up to 24 hours without charge. However, suspects arrested under the provisions of section 4 can remain in custody for longer than 24 hours if their questioning is suspended to allow them to sleep at the Garda station overnight.

The Irish Times understands there was no garda on security duty outside the house when the break-in occurred at about 11.30pm. This is likely to cause Mr Shatter and the Fine Gael-led Government embarrassment because much of the reduction in such Garda duties has taken place since they entered office over a year ago.

Traditionally a uniformed garda had been stationed permanently outside the home of the minister for justice of the day. Mr Shatter’s predecessor Dermot Ahern had Garda protection on his Co Louth home.

However, in recent times that arrangement, along with the provision of armed Garda drivers who doubled as bodyguards for Ministers, have been scaled back because of personnel shortages across the Garda.

The Department of Justice confirmed that an incident had taken place at Mr Shatter’s house but declined to comment any further. “It’s an operational matter for the gardaí now,” a department spokeswoman said.