Questions remain over Alan Shatter’s departure from office

Formidable deputy was one of the the State’s most reforming ministers for justice

 Alan Shatter with Taoiseach Enda Kenny: In just three years in   office, Shatter initiated a sweeping reform agenda in the Department of Justice, publishing nearly 30 separate pieces of legislation. Photograph:  Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Alan Shatter with Taoiseach Enda Kenny: In just three years in office, Shatter initiated a sweeping reform agenda in the Department of Justice, publishing nearly 30 separate pieces of legislation. Photograph: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

 

The judgement by the Court of Appeal in favour of Alan Shatter raises the question of whether an outstanding minister for justice was hounded unfairly from office.

Mr Shatter resigned from the Government in May of 2014 as a direct result of a report by barrister Seán Guerin into allegations made by Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe. A court has now found that Mr Shatter’s constitutional rights were breached by the Guerin investigation.

This judgement comes on top of the report by Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins, which earlier this year unambiguously cleared Mr Shatter of any wrongdoing in his handling of the allegations made by Sgt McCabe.

All of this has come too late to rescue Mr Shatter’s political career. His term of office as minister for the Departments of Justice and Defence came to an end with his resignation in 2014. His career as a Dáil deputy ended in February when he lost his seat in Dublin Rathdown.

During his time in government Mr Shatter established himself as one of the most energetic and reforming ministers for justice in the history of the State. He still had a huge amount to do when his cabinet career came to an abrupt end.

A formidable debater, Shatter was often accused of arrogance by opponents in the Dáil who disliked his combative style, but his ability and hard work were undeniable.

Serious antagonism

He aroused serious antagonism in the Law Library with his attempt to cut legal costs and provoked the ire of the judiciary by supporting cuts in judges pay in line with the rest of the public service.

In just three years in office, he initiated a sweeping reform agenda in justice, publishing nearly 30 separate pieces of legislation.

Among them were the Personal Insolvency Act, the National Vetting Bureau Act (Children & Vulnerable Persons) Act, the Criminal Justice Act, the DNA Database Act, the Human Rights and Equality Commission Act.

Major reforms were also introduced into Ireland’s citizenship laws and a new citizenship ceremony was created. During his time as minister, 69,000 foreign nationals became Irish citizens.

Mr Shatter also created a scheme to facilitate relations of Syrian families already resident in Ireland who were either caught up in the civil war, or in refugee camps elsewhere as a result of the conflict in Syria, to join them here.

In his role as minister for defence, he implemented substantial reform in the Department of Defence and restructured the Irish Defence Forces.

Things started to go wrong for him when in 2013 he criticised whistleblowers who alleged widespread corruption in An Garda Síochána regarding the cancellation of penalty points.

He was dogged by one controversy after another for the following year and eventually resigned as a result of the Guerin report.