Shatter finds focus on letter timeline ‘extraordinary’
Government backbenchers putting reputations ‘on the line’ in supporting Shatter – FF
Fianna Fáil Dara Calleary (left) told the Government benches if they voted confidence in Minister for Justice Alan Shatter they were “voting confidence in a Minister who is not in control of his own Department”. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has described as “extraordinary’’ that the
focus of attention in the Garda tapes controversy was the failure of department officials to give him a letter from former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan.
“What purpose would there be, if I had received it any earlier, in concealing that fact,’’ he added. “What purpose would there be to do nothing about it?’’
Mr Shatter was speaking in his own defence against an Opposition motion of no confidence. Cabinet Ministers Simon Coveney, Frances Fitzgerald, Pat Rabbitte and James Reilly flanked the Minister as he spoke. Ten Fine Gael backbenchers and eight Labour TDs were in the chamber.
Mr Shatter asked if anybody in the House wished another area of difficulty to arise relating to An Garda Síochána. He accused the Opposition of creating a distraction from the reality that this was a problem created very many years ago.
Mr Shatter said that like everybody else in the House he did not get everything right. “It is extraordinary how people think that no one ever can make a mistake and no one ever can be forgiven for making a mistake,’’ he added.
“I do not have a monopoly of wisdom; none of us have a monopoly of wisdom,’’ he added.
He would continue to do the best job he could as Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence.
He was constantly accused, in a very personalised way, of a variety of different failures, he said. “None of us perfect; but if I respond in kind to the manner in which I am treated, I am labelled as arrogant and as overbearing,’’ he added.
Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said the controversy involving the whistleblowers had been allowed to go on too long.
He said the Minister did correct the record after an “unconscionably long time” but it now seemed minor after the revelations about the Garda tapes.
In a speech expressing his and the Labour party’s “full confidence” in Mr Shatter, Mr Rabbitte said the Government had seized the opportunity in the crisis to do important things.
He said the Government agreed a package of radical reforms that had eluded all governments to date, including introducing a policing authority, legislative power to GSOC, direct access for gardaí to GSOC
He said the reforms would endure long after the “who said what when” was forgotten.
Mr Rabbitte said he believed Mr Shatter when he said he did not receive the Commissioner’s letter. He said the former commissioner never met the Attorney General on the issue and there never was a working party involving the Garda commissioner and the Attorney.
Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary told the Government benches if they voted confidence in Mr Shatter they were “voting confidence in a Minister who is not in control of his own Department”.
He warned them they were putting their reputations “on the line” by voting confidence in the Minister and this was after the Taoiseach had set up an “ASOC” – an Alan Shatter Oversight Committee.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins said Mr Shatter “is not capable of administering justice” and was rushing from crisis to crisis.
He told Mr Shatter “the Garda commissioner was shafted to save your skin”.
Willie O’Dea said the Minister saw everything from the height “of your own regard”.
Fianna Fáil environment spokesman Barry Cowen said the “three strikes and you’re out” did not apply. “You need to have four or five strikes for this Minister in relation to his handling of the various affairs.”