Charlie Flanagan says coverage of Shatter’s €12 claim ‘unfair’

Irish Daily Star issues statement defending decision to print article on expenses

Alan Shatter spoke on Tuesday of his upset at what he described as the misleading impression created by reports about expenses claims.

Alan Shatter spoke on Tuesday of his upset at what he described as the misleading impression created by reports about expenses claims.

 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has described some recent coverage of Alan Shatter’s expenses claim as “grossly selective, unfair and over the top”.

Mr Flanagan said that such coverage goes against the grain of the Freedom of Information regime, which was liberalised by the present Government.

“I would have thought that the creation of a right to obtain information would also impose a duty on the media to give the full story and not be selective,” he said.

Mr Shatter spoke to The Irish Times on Tuesday of his upset at what he described as the misleading impression created by reports about expenses claims for photographs while he was minister for justice and defence.

The TD claimed a distorted version of the facts purveyed by some of the mainstream media had fuelled a predictable dose of anti-Semitic comment across social media.

Following a freedom-of-information request from the Daily Star, it was widely reported that Mr Shatter had claimed €12 in expenses for his passport photos while serving as a minister.

 

Receipts

Mr Shatter said that for an official ministerial visit in 2013 he was required to provide photographs for a visa to Lebanon. “I was asked to have photos taken, and told to furnish receipts. My recollection is that my private secretary had to chase after me to get them.”

 

He said the story had been repeated across certain media and resulted in him being criticised by Fianna Fáil and Transparency International.

“I became the object of vile anti-Semitic comment,” said the Dublin South TD. “The story fitted neatly into centuries of anti-Semitic caricature.”

On Wednesday night, the Star issued a statement defending their decision to print the article, saying it was “a genuine news story of public interest regarding his decision to make an expenses claim of €12 at the taxpayers’ expense for passport photographs despite his sizable wage of almost €160,000.

“The Star never alleged that the claim was illegal, yet simply stated a fact. Attempts were made to contact Mr Shatter prior to publication but failed.

“Since then Mr Shatter has taken to social media and legal letters to claim an anti-Semitic element to the news story. These are claims which the Star vehemently deny.

“There was no mention or insinuation of any religious element at any point in our article and we contend this was introduced to the argument by Mr Shatter and deflects from the original debate on the appropriateness of expenses claims in public office.

“Separately the Irish Daily Star intends to reply directly through legal channels regarding his response.”