Tánaiste calls on Shatter to withdraw comments

Gilmore denies Cabinet in disarray over penalty points controversy

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore responds to questions on the GSOC affair after announcing details of a €600,000 grant towards the redevelopment of the Ruislip GAA grounds in London. Video: Bryan O'Brien

Mon, Mar 24, 2014, 16:12

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said Minister for Justice Alan Shatter should withdraw his claim in the Dáil that Garda whistleblowers did not co-operate with an internal inquiry into the penalty points affair.

Mr Gilmore’s remarks this morning in Dublin come amid tension in the Cabinet over claims that Garda commissioner Martin Callinan should apologise for describing the whistleblowers’ actions as “disgusting”.

The Tánaiste denied the Cabinet was in disarray over the matter , saying it was always the case that there would be differing views within Government on certain topics. The matter will be discussed when the Cabinet meets tomorrow.

Although Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said Ministers should not discuss their views on the matter outside the Cabinet room, Mr Gilmore said answers had to be given when questions were in the public domain.

“I think it’s always preferable that issues are discussed in Cabinet and I expect that this issue will be discussed in Cabinet, but, of course, when issues are in the public domain and people like yourself ... ask questions about them we’re expected to give answers,” he said.

While the political focus in recent days has been on Mr Callinan, the Tánaiste’s remarks today brings fresh attention to Mr Shatter’s stance.

The Minister for Justice has said there was “fault on both sides” when whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe was not interviewed in a Garda inquiry into penalty point cancellations but said he could see how Sgt McCabe could be described as co-operating with the inquiry.

Mr Gilmore said Mr Shatter had handled the controversy well.

When asked, however, whether the Minister should withdraw his Dáil assertion about the lack of co-operation, the Tánaiste made the same point he had made in relation to Mr Callinan.

“As I’ve said I think there are always phrases that are used and comments that are made and I think it’s always best that they’re cleared up as quickly as possible but I think that’s a matter for the Minister for Justice,” he said.

Asked directly whether it was incumbent on Mr Shatter to withdraw his remarks, he said he should .

“I’ve said that I think it would be helpful if the remarks were withdrawn. I stand by that. It’s a matter both for the Garda Commissioner and Minister Shatter,” Mr Gilmore said.

He said his views were well-known in relation to the commissioner’s stance. “I think public office holders and senior public servants from time to time say things or use phrases that are a bit unfortunate and I think it’s always better that those are cleared up as soon as possible so that we can get on and deal with what are the substantive issues,” he said.

The Tánaiste reiterated his support for the notion of handing oversight of the Garda to an independent authority.

“The real question here is that we have a Garda force that is doing its job and I think we need to move to discuss the idea of there being a Garda authority or a policing board drawn across Irish society.”