Taoiseach wrote twice to Shatter on family case
TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny wrote twice to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter about a family law matter after being contacted by a Mayo constituent who raised an issue about the Land Registry.
Mr Shatter said in response it would be inappropriate for him to comment on a family dispute or intervene in the Land Registry records, according to a statement released by the Minister and approved by Mr Kenny yesterday.
Mr Shatter was yesterday strongly critical of the Sunday Independent, which obtained letters under the Freedom of Information Act. Mr Shatter issued two statements. He also released a redacted version of his letter responding to Mr Kenny shortly before 9.30pm last night. Other letters involved were not released.
Mr Shatter’s second statement insisted Mr Kenny had not made representations to him about the matter. He said Mr Kenny’s “office forwards queries in such correspondence for the attention of the Department responsible”.
Earlier, Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins said Mr Shatter had behaved appropriately but pressed Mr Kenny for an explanation. “The decision of the Taoiseach to use his position to seek information on behalf of a constituent in a family law case constitutes an outrageous failure of judgment,” Mr Collins said. “The Taoiseach instead needs to explain publicly the background to his involvement and apologise to the parties that could have been negatively affected by his intervention.”
Mr Shatter, in his first statement of 979 words, said Mr Kenny received a letter from a person in Mayo which the Taoiseach forwarded to him. Mr Shatter said Mr Kenny said the constituent had “an issue on family law” and asked Mr Shatter to examine the points raised in the constituent’s letter and “advise me in due course”.
Mr Shatter said the constituent was neither an applicant nor a respondent in a family law court case. The Minister said Mr Kenny wrote to him a second time after an acknowledgement of the first letter was sent.
“In a reminder letter to me in which the Taoiseach again references the correspondence ‘regarding an issue on family law’ in seeking a substantive response he noted receiving an earlier ‘acknowledgement’ from me and stated he would be grateful if I could let him ‘know the present position in this case’ being the issue of his asking that I ‘examine the points raised’ in his constituent’s letter and that I ‘advise him’ in ‘due course’ on the constituent’s letter.”
Mr Shatter said he “ultimately” replied to Mr Kenny saying that he noted there was “a very substantial dispute resulting from a marriage unfortunately breaking down”. He added: “I am sure your constituent will understand that it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the family dispute that has arisen.”
Mr Shatter said the constituent had instructed a solicitor who he said should be able to give comprehensive advice on the issues that had arisen. He said the “totality of the background circumstances” would be relevant to “the claim” referred to in the constituent’s letter and he hoped the constituent “understands it would be entirely improper for a member of Government to intervene in any way with Land Registry Records”.
Mr Shatter told Mr Kenny if the constituent believed any document was “forged or otherwise invalid” the solicitor should be consulted and consideration given to reporting the matter to the gardaí.
A spokesman for Mr Kenny said he had nothing to add to Mr Shatter’s statement.
Responding to Mr Shatter’s first statement, the Sunday Independent said it rejected “the tone and content’’ of the Minister’s comments.