Analysis: Word ‘sorry’ was never going to feature in Shatter statement

Minister’s explanation to Dáil leaves two questions unanswered re whistleblower issue

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter addressing the Dáil this morning on the handling on the Garda whistleblowers issue.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter addressing the Dáil this morning on the handling on the Garda whistleblowers issue.

Wed, Feb 26, 2014, 13:23

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s statement to the Dáil this morning ran to over 5,700 words but - no surprises here - the word ‘sorry’ was never going to feature in it.

Ostensibly, Shatter gave a very detailed chronology of how the complaints of Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe were dealt with and handled by the Garda Síochána, by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, and by the Department of Justice and by himself.

But being Shatter there was always a strong political dimension - it was paradoxical to hear this most partisan of politicians taking umbrage at his opponents for being partisan in their attacks on him.

There were four elements which were noteworthy. The first was his explanation of his handling of the correspondence and the communications and the allegation made by McCabe. In the whole, his explanation was credible but it still left two questions unanswered. Should he have done more given the gravity of what was contained? And did his speech allay concerns about the quality of internal investigations within the Garda Síochána? We will return to that.

The second element was political. Last night, Shatter let it be known that he would go on the offensive today, particularly in relation to the manner in which its leader Micheál Martin had brought the matter to public attention last week.

Shatter attacked his cavalier attitude towards the Garda, his lack of respect for Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. “[Micheál Martin] falsely accused me of undermining the administration of justice , a charge which I entirely reject.”

Shatter responded to Martin’s contention that he was in receipt of the information two years ago but did little about it. The Minister’s response to that did not confine itself to a justification of what he did as a result of receiving the correspondence and contacts.

He extended the attack to claim that there had been contact with the previous government. He was able to show that Maurice McCabe had written to then Fianna Fáil minister for justice Dermot Ahern in 2009 highlighting concerns in the Garda station at Baileboro, Co Cavan. He also disclosed that the husband of murder victim Syliva Roche-Kelly, Lorcan Roche-Kelly had also written to Mr Ahern in 2009.

However, in both cases it was the Minister’s private secretary who responded, directing McCabe and Roche-Kelly on to gardaí and GSOC as the appropriate bodies. Ahern maintained this week that the case was never aware of the case and this correspondence bears it out.

It does show that there was contact. But the contact was not of the magnitude of the voluminous dossiers and emails (running into dozens) sent to Shatter, and incidentally, to Taoiseach Enda Kenny over the past two years.

Martin, in his follow-up Dail statement, could say with some justification that the contacts were of a different order: “Dermot Ahern never got the dossier. You did. The [CONTACTS]are not comparable in any shape or form.”