Enda Kenny asked to disclose what he knew prior to Guerin report

Alan Shatter says it is difficult to believe that the secretary general had not briefed the Taoiseach ahead of report’s publication

The Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has been asked to disclose what he knew about difficulties senior counsel Sean Guerin was facing in drafting his scoping report on the official response to allegations from garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

It was reported on Sunday that Martin Fraser, the secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach, was told prior to the publication of the 2014 report that Mr Guerin was having difficulty accessing files held by the Garda Ombudsman's office.

The Guerin report led to the resignation of the then Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, after he was told the Taoiseach would not be able to declare his confidence in him in a Dáil debate.

Mr Shatter, speaking on RTÉ radio on Sunday, called on Mr Kenny to say if he knew what his department had been told by Mr Guerin in the period immediately before the publication of the barrister’s report.

He said it was difficult to believe that the secretary general had not briefed the Taoiseach. He also said it would have been understandable if Mr Guerin had decided Mr Kenny was “okay” with completing his report without accessing the documents, if Mr Kenny had not responded to his notifying the department.

The report found that Mr Shatter did not properly heed warnings of malpractice within An Garda Síochána, a finding that led to the minister’s resignation. However, a statutory inquiry recommended by the report later found that Mr Shatter had responded appropriately to the claims.

The Court of Appeal has since found that Mr Shatter’s constitutional rights were breached because he was not interviewed by Mr Guerin or allowed view his draft conclusions. Mr Guerin is now appealing that decision to the Supreme Court.

Need for reform

Mr Guerin kept the department informed of the difficulties he was having in accessing the Garda Ombudsman files as he was approaching the deadline for his report, according to the Sunday Business Post.

On the matter of the need for reform of An Garda Síochána , Mr Shatter said reports drafted by the Garda Inspectorate during his time in office had included more than 300 recommendations which he said should be implemented.

This would provide for root and branch reform, he said. He was concerned that the Government’s proposed review “kicks the can down the road”.

Other than the reforms he was referring to, he said, there was a requirement to look at accountability structures for the Garda, which are currently confused. There is “a quagmire of fragmented accountability structures”, he said.

A spokesman for the Government said the Fennelly Report, which investigated unlawful recording of telephone calls by the gardaí, made clear its support for the root and branch review that has been announced by the Government.

The force has not been able to reform from within, he said, and reform will require independent, expert and outside oversight.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

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