Senior Labour Ministers express support for Shatter over Garda disclosure row
Backing seen as significant ahead of Fianna Fáil motion of no confidence in Dáil
Pat Rabbitte: Controversy is a “bottle of smoke”. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has received the firm endorsement of senior Labour Party figures before a Dáil debate on a motion of no confidence in his position begins tomorrow.
Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore yesterday said the Fine Gael Minister had the full support of both Coalition parties when asked about the political row on Garda discretion in relation to traffic-related incidents.
“Minister Shatter has done a very good job as Minister for Justice and Defence and he has the full support of the entire Government and of the two parties in Government,” Mr Gilmore said.
He said Mr Shatter had already made a statement, explained the issues involved and “said he’s sorry”. Mr Gilmore was speaking at Farmleigh in Dublin, where he was attending a celebration to mark Africa Day.
Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte dismissed the controversy as a “bottle of smoke”.
Mr Rabbitte said if a Garda record existed of Mr Shatter’s unsuccessful attempt to complete a breathalyser test when he was stopped at a Garda checkpoint some four years ago, he was sure the Minister would be willing to use his powers to make it available.
“This is a completely trivial controversy, it’s a bottle of smoke,” he said.
Mr Rabbitte said Mr Shatter should not have made the remark he made on RTÉ’s Prime Time television programme, when he disclosed details of a minor “ticking off” of Independent TD Mick Wallace by gardaí for using a mobile phone while driving last year. “He apologised for his lapse on the programme.”
However, Mr Rabbitte said Mr Shatter would not have disclosed anything of significance. “This was a matter of exceeding triviality. It was more gossip than anything else,” he told The Week in Politics on RTÉ.
The 19 Fianna Fáil TDs have signed the motion of no confidence in Mr Shatter and the debate is due to begin at 7.30pm tomorrow.
Party leader Micheál Martin has said the only way the situation can be clarified is for a Garda report on the incident to be made available, if it exists.
Garda sources were reported yesterday as saying there was no report of the incident, but the Garda press office said information concerning individual cases involving third parties was not disclosed for operational reasons.
Mr Shatter last week said that he had received the information about Mr Wallace from Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan during a penalty points briefing.
Speaking this afternoon, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said his party-colleague had his full confidence and he would be supporting him in the Dáil vote.
"I think Alan will speak for himself... but I have full confidence in Alan Shatter as a minister. He's one of the brightest politicians in the country and I think he's going through a difficult period at the moment but I think he'll get through it," he said.
Mr Coveney was speaking as he accompanied a delegation of European agriculture ministers on a tour of Teagasc's beef research facility in Grange, Co Meath.