Alan Shatter wants Taoiseach to apologise fully for ‘damage done’ by Guerin report

Ex-minister responds as Martin says redacted report will be placed in Oireachtas library

Former Fine Gael minister for justice Alan Shatter has expressed his disappointment that the Taoiseach did not this week apologise fully for the damage done to Mr Shatter by a report which led to his resignation.

He has also called on former taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and the author of the report, senior counsel Seán Guerin, to apologise.

Mr Shatter said that what he wanted was that “the truth would be acknowledged, and the damage done to me would be acknowledged”.

“I don’t know why Micheál Martin would go part of the way, but not issue an apology on behalf of the Dáil,” he said.

On Wednesday, the Taoiseach told the Dáil that a redacted copy of the Guerin report, into allegations of Garda misconduct made by Sgt Maurice McCabe, had been placed in the Oireachtas library.

The move follows a decision of the Supreme Court in February 2019 that conclusions critical of Mr Shatter in Mr Guerin's 2014 report were outside the scope of the report's terms of reference.

The court also found the conclusions were arrived at without giving the politician an opportunity to respond, and were damaging to his reputation. Mr Shatter was minister for justice at the time of the report, and resigned following its delivery.

In 2016, a commission of inquiry, the O’Higgins Commission, found that Mr Shatter had responded properly and appropriately as minister to the complaints raised by Sgt McCabe.

Mr Shatter said it was “regrettable” that a country that prided itself on constitutional propriety and the rule of law had taken so long to respond to the Supreme Court’s ruling, and had not then addressed the substance of the matter.

‘Matter of fairness’

In his statement to the Dáil this week, Mr Martin said it was his view that “as a matter of propriety and fairness”, a redacted version of the report should be placed in the library, without the paragraphs that had been criticised by the Supreme Court.

A copy of the Supreme Court judgment has also been placed in the library, in order to contextualise the matter, he said.

A proposal earlier this year to remove the Guerin report from the library in light of the Supreme Court judgment was not supported by the Dáil.

An unredacted version of the report, containing the paragraphs that are critical of Mr Shatter, is to remain in the library but will not be publicly available. It will only be available to TDs and Senators on request.

Mr Shatter said that while he welcomed the decision to put a redacted version of the report in the Oireachtas library, it was disappointing that the Taoiseach had failed to publicly acknowledge and apologise for the damage wrongly inflicted on him.

“It is also disappointing that nothing was expressly said to repair the reputational damage done by commentary in the Dáil chamber by deputies in 2014” when they were responding to the conclusions contained in the Guerin report, Mr Shatter added.

Extensive abuse

Mr Shatter told The Irish Times he had been “cancelled as a politician” by what was done in 2014 , that he and his family had suffered extensive abuse, and that “none of my former colleagues, bar one, engaged to help me”.

The findings of the Guerin report had caused him enormous personal distress as well as distress to his family, and resulted in the years that followed “in my regularly being personally abused and denigrated, including being subject to antiSemitic attack and abuse”, he said.

Mr Shatter said that at a time when false narratives are pervasive and endure on social media, he believed “that the importance of truth, fairness, decency and propriety reasonably require that the Dáil record be fully and publicly corrected”.

The Taoiseach’s statement fell “substantially short of what the bizarre and unprecedented circumstances require”, he said.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent