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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Coalition may opt for independent inquiry into cases

Fionnan Sheahan and John Downing

Published 22/02/2014 | 02:30

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THE Government is considering an independent inquiry into allegations that gardai mishandled serious crime investigations.

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But both Fine Gael and Labour Party ministers are expressing full confidence in Justice Minister Alan Shatter as the garda controversies continue to grow.

The Coalition parties are expressing differing views on the need for a special inquiry ahead of the completion of provisional reports on the allegations.

Government sources say an independent review of the cases is an option, but it is premature to say what action ministers will opt to take next week.

Labour appears to be more keen on an additional investigation than FG, but neither party has made a definitive decision.

Mr Shatter and Taoiseach Enda Kenny are both completing their separate reports into allegations of garda mismanagement of cases, some involving murder, abduction and assault.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said he could not see any need for a special inquiry, but Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte didn't rule out the prospect.

Senior sources in both parties said there were a number of options available.

A commission of investigation is a possibility, as is getting a High Court judge or similar expert to examine the handling of the cases – as has happened with the GSOC bugging affair.

"A course of action is to be identified next week, but it might be difficult to have one course of action to deal with everything," a FG source said.

"I think there is a need for some sort of process the public will have faith in," a Labour source said.

Mr Shatter is also under pressure to clarify why he claimed garda whistleblowers did not co-operate with the inquiry into the wiping off of penalty points.

Mr Shatter had claimed in the Dail that Sgt Maurice McCabe did not co-operate with an investigation into the penalty points controversy.

'CORRECT'

But FF leader Micheal Martin claimed Sgt McCabe was not asked for any information by the inquiry.

Mr Rabbitte said he was sure Mr Shatter would "correct the record" if he was wrong.

"The Minister for Justice may have been mistaken when he said he didn't co-operate," he said.

"This is not a minister who would mislead the Dail," he added. "If that wasn't his genuine understanding of the situation at the time, it would be unthinkable he would have said otherwise."

Mr Rabbitte praised Mr Shatter's abilities as Justice Minister.

"I do have confidence in Alan Shatter," he said.

He added that the allegations of garda mismanagement of cases were "serious" and the issues involved were of "a grave nature". He said: "I don't rule out an inquiry under the Commission of Investigation Act. I don't rule that out at all."

Mr Noonan has accused the opposition parties of trying to "smear" Mr Shatter. He said he did not see any need for a special inquiry.

He strongly defended Mr Shatter, whom he described as "a good and reforming minister" and he singled out Mr Martin for special criticism.

"It's quite clear the opposition parties have him targeted and they're trying to smear him."

Mr Noonan said he did not know if Mr Shatter had details of alleged garda mishandling of investigations for two years without taking any action.

He said Mr Shatter would answer for himself but the documents related to 2007-2009 when Mr Martin was a member of Cabinet.

"If charges are being made about the maladministration of justice, it wasn't the man who is there now that was 'maladministering' justice, it was the people who were there between 2007 and 2009."

Mr Shatter's officials are also understood to be trawling through records in his department to establish how he dealt with the allegations when they were originally sent to him by the whistleblower.

Attorney General Maire Whelan and senior officials in the Taoiseach's department are scanning a dossier of cases of alleged mismanagement by the gardai, some involving murder, abduction and assault.

The files from a garda whistleblower were passed to Mr Kenny by FF leader Micheal Martin.

Irish Independent

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