Former confidential recipient stands by Minister

Connolly’s combative and detailed statement had all the hallmarks of the man who sacked him

 Minister for Justice Alan Shatter: Under no circumstances would I take that approach to any individual,” he said, days after he had sacked Oliver Connolly. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter: Under no circumstances would I take that approach to any individual,” he said, days after he had sacked Oliver Connolly. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Wed, Mar 5, 2014, 06:17

The statement yesterday from Oliver Connolly, the former confidential recipient, made it clear he is standing by the man who sacked him, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. His statement – combative and detailed – had all the hallmarks of Shatter himself.

In one way, it was extraordinary, since Shatter recently described Connolly’s reported conversation with Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe as “quite extraordinary” and “highly inappropriate”. Connolly was alleged to have told McCabe: “If Shatter thinks you’re screwing him, you’re finished.”

The Minister has rejected this view of him. “Under no circumstances would I take that approach to any individual,” he said, days after he had sacked Connolly. Yet here was Connolly, who once gave Shatter a €1,000 election donation, yesterday: “I have a particular understanding of the reforming zeal of which the Minister is possessed; indeed, much of it I share, and I also acutely understand the particular challenges he faces.

“The Minister is often misunderstood, and strange as it may seem to some, despite recent events, I remain an enthusiastic supporter of the Minister in his programme of reform.”

On Shatter’s decision to sack him, Connolly merely said “so be it”. He had been asked by the secretary general of the Department of Justice to “repudiate the alleged transcript”, but insisted he could not do so, and would not do so, given the confidential nature of his previous position.

“The trust placed in me demands that I respect that confidentiality – though others have not and currently do not.

In comments to The Irish Times after he released his statement, Connolly said he had not informed Shatter he was making his statement, which he believed raise a number of issues.

“I can confirm that I have had no ‘dealings’ with the Minister, nor did I inform him of my pending statement, although it could hardly be unexpected. My ‘dealings’ have been with the secretary general of the Department of Justice, but only prior to my being relieved of my position.”

Despite the lengthy statement, Connolly still faces demands to appear before the Oireachtas justice committee to answer questions on the affair. Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday suggested he should co-operate with the inquiry by Seán Guerin SC into McCabe’s allegations.

One issue is still unresolved, even after the statements from Shatter and Connolly. Why is it, in the “alleged” conversation, that Connolly told McCabe: “If Shatter thinks you’re screwing him, you’re finished.”

Connolly last night said “there is an explanation for everything”, but added he was not sure how any appearance before an Oireachtas committee might help.

“If you have truly considered my statement you will know that I cannot provide you with the answer that you would find satisfactory without breaching the confidentiality of the office.”

Only Connolly himself can provide the full answers, if he chooses to do so.