Shatter launches broadside at Bar Council and renews criticism of Guerin

Problem with appointment or terms of reference should be addressed by Government

Former minister for justice Alan Shatter. Mr Shatter said it was “nonsense” to suggest he had an animus towards the Bar Council but the council operated, he said, under the motto nolumus mutari or no change. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Former minister for justice Alan Shatter. Mr Shatter said it was “nonsense” to suggest he had an animus towards the Bar Council but the council operated, he said, under the motto nolumus mutari or no change. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Sat, Jul 12, 2014, 01:00

Former minister for justice Alan Shatter launched a broadside against the Bar Council during debate on amendments to the Legal Services Bill. The Bill provides for what has been described as the biggest reform of the legal profession since the foundation of the State.

Mr Shatter said there were vital reforms in the legislation, which he had introduced in the Dáil when minister, but there was “resilient opposition” to it, in particular from the Bar Council, which represents barristers.

Mr Shatter said it was “nonsense” to suggest he had an animus towards the Bar Council but the council operated, he said, under the motto nolumus mutari, or no change. He claimed the Bar Council in the past six weeks had “gone into overdrive” trying to “effectively oppose every substantial reforming measure that could change the manner in which barristers undertake their work”. During debate on two justice-related Bills he criticised senior counsel Seán Guerin, whose report led to his resignation.

Guerin Report

Six weeks ago Mr Shatter had sharply attacked the Guerin Report and raised the issue again during debate on amendments to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Bill, which amalgamates the Equality Authority and the Human Rights Commission.

Mr Shatter renewed his call on the new commission to investigate how the report was compiled, claiming failure to comply with basic fair procedures, constitutional justice and natural justice.

Sinn Féin justice spokesman Pádraig Mac Lochlainn criticised Mr Shatter for using Dáil time to “settle old scores”.

Mr Shatter repeated his criticisms during debate on the Legal Services Bill and said the Bar Council’s code of practice did not deal with “the conduct of barristers when they are asked to conduct inquiries into matters where court proceedings are not involved”.

He said Mr Guerin was put in charge of an investigation involving Mr Shatter at a time when he was opposing legislation the then minister was steering through the House.

Labour TD and barrister Michael McNamara said: “Regardless of Mr Guerin’s report . . . Mr Guerin was appointed by the Government, not by himself and the Government set out his terms of reference, he did not set them out.”