Shatter criticises media 'campaign'

Thu, Apr 12, 2012, 01:00

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has criticised what he described as a media campaign to compile “a blacklist of elected TDs” that ministers should not meet on official business.

Mr Shatter said recent media reports had echoes of the McCarthy era in 1950s US politics, during which time unsubstantiated accusations were regularly made about political figures. Mr Shatter said this was a “slippery slope we should not slide down”.

“We should not allow such an approach to gain even a foothold in a robust constitutional democracy that takes political elective office and constituency representation seriously,” he said.

Mr Shatter was responding to an article in today’s Irish Independent which he said carried “a grossly misleading headline” claiming he had refused to reveal if he had met Independent TD Michael Lowry in the wake of the Moriarty Tribunal report last year.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan was last week criticised in the media for meeting Mr Lowry just six days after the publication of the final Moriarty report. The report found Mr Lowry had played a “pervasive and insidious” role in the process to award the State’s second mobile phone licence.

It also found Mr Lowry received payments of £447,000 sterling from Denis O’Brien, whose company was awarded the licence. Mr O’Brien is the largest shareholder in Independent News and Media and is reportedly planning to seek the removal of INM chief executive Gavin O’Reilly at the group’s agm in June.

Earlier this week, Mr Lowry said he was “greatly troubled” by what he described as “reckless and irresponsible” comment from “various political and media sources”. He added that tribunal did not make any finding of corruption against him.

Mr Shatter said that in reply to a “loaded question” from a journalist, as reported in the Irish Independent story, he had stated: “As Minister for Justice I am not participating in Independent Newspapers' agenda.”

Mr Shatter said a particular agenda by Independent Newspapers had been in play for some time.

“As Minister for Justice it is my obligation to uphold the rule of law,” he said.

“The Garda Commissioner is consulting with the Director of Public Prosecutions as to whether aspects of the Moriarty Report may be pursued from a criminal point of view and as Minister for Justice I am determined to ensure that I neither do nor say anything that could prejudice matters. This is entirely consistent with my contribution in the Dáil to the debate on the Moriarty Report.”