Shatter orders review of McCabe correspondence

Kenny backs Shatter while Noonan says allegations arise from before Government’s time

 Taoiseach Enda Kenny who today defended the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s  close relationship with Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. Photograph:L Collins

Taoiseach Enda Kenny who today defended the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s close relationship with Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. Photograph:L Collins

Fri, Feb 21, 2014, 21:29

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has initiated a review of all correspondence between his department and Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Mr Shatter arrived back in Ireland today from a meeting of EU defence ministers in Greece, made no comment tonight.

However, a spokeswoman told The Irish Times he had initiated the review of all correspondence.

Earlier Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said Mr Shatter “may have been mistaken” when he said in the Dáil that Sgt McCabe did not cooperate with the penalty points investigation.

Mr Rabbitte said he believed the Minister would “correct the record” if he was wrong.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny expressed full confidence in Mr Shatter today and said he saw no reason why he should come into the Dáil and “set the record straight”.

Speaking in Castlebar, Co Mayo, Mr Kenny added that he had no plans to discuss the controversy into the alleged mishandling of investigations by gardai with Mr Shatter following his return from Greece today.

Mr Kenny said Mr Shatter had already answered questions on this issue in the Dáil and had appeared before an Oireachtas committee for over four hours.

The Taoiseach also defended the Minister’s close relationship with Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

“Does anybody in this country believe that a Minister for Justice shouldn’t have a close relationship with the Garda Commissioner? Minister Shatter no more than any other Minister for Justice is required to have a strong working relationship with the Commissioner.”

“He’s also required to see to it that the integrity and credibility of GSOC and the Garda Siochana are both maintained and that’s why Minister Shatter has acted in respect of the publication of alleged conversations that took place between the confidential recipient and the whistleblower in this case.”

The Taoiseach added Mr Shatter had already made it clear the legislation covering whistleblowers needed to be changed.

Mr Kenny said he expected the appointment, on a short-term basis, of a retired District Court or High Court Judge would inspire confidence among whistleblowers.

Mr Rabbitte said allegations made this week of policing failures must be investigated.

Mr Rabbitte said the claims of Garda misconduct, raised by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, were of the “utmost gravity”.

“This is so serious and the issues involved are of such a grave nature that we ought to take time to prepare properly for the issues to be properly investigated in due course,” he told RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke programme.

Mr Martin this week passed documents to Taoiseach Enda Kenny showing cases involving “abduction, assault and ultimately murder” that may have not been properly investigated. He claims a document referring to “very serious issues” within the Garda was passed to Mr Shatter two years ago.

The new allegations place further attention on the Mr Shatter who has come under scrutiny for his handling of the penalty points controversy as well as allegations of bugging at the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan both expressed confidence in Mr Shatter today.

Mr Gilmore said the information provided by Mr Martin was being taken “very seriously” but he said he was unable to discuss any individual case.

He also declined to comment when asked on whether the Garda Commissioner should apologise for calling the whistle-blowers “disgusting”.

“I think we need to look now at the information provided, we will do that. I will be discussing it with the Taoiseach and we will take it forward.”

Asked if Mr Shatter had handled the issue well, Mr Gilmore responded: “I think the more important thing is that we deal with the substance of the allegations. Alan Shatter is someone who does a very good job.”

Mr Noonan also confidence in Mr Shatter, saying he was “an excellent performing minister”.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Mr Noonan said it was “quite clear” that opposition parties had targeted Mr Shatter and were “trying to smear him”.

Asked why Mr Shatter did not act on the reports of Garda misconduct, Mr Noonan said Mr Shatter would have to answer questions about his own department.

Mr Noonan noted that Mr Martin was a member of the Cabinet at the time from which the allegations arise.

“All these documents relate to a period from 2007 to 2009. If charges are being made by Micheal Martin about the maladministration of justice it wasn’t the man who was there now…it was the people who were there between 2007 and 2009.”

Mr Rabbitte also said he had confidence in Mr Shatter. Labour earlier this week insisted Mr Rabbitte had a direct input into a response by Mr Shatter to the GSOC bugging controvery.

However, Mr Rabbitte said Mr Shatter “may have been mistaken” when he said in the Dáil that whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe did not cooperate with the penalty points investigation.

Mr Martin yesterday claimed Sgt McCabe was not invited to provide information by the inquiry. This morning Mr Rabbitte said he believed the Minister would “correct the record” if he was wrong.

Meanwhile, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) and the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (Agsi), which together represent about 13,000 members of An Garda Síochana, both declined to comment on the allegations of Garda misconduct.

The GRA said it wasn’t a matter for their organisation while the Agsi said it would not comment on that issue or on the sacking by Mr Shatter of the Garda confidential recipient Oliver Connolly.

Previously the AGSI called for the resignation of the GSOC chairman Simon O’Brien over his handling of bugging allegations at the Garda watchdog. The GRA was also publicly critical of Mr O’Brien over that issue.