Tuesday 27 June 2017

Shatter in court battle to have 'stain on reputation' removed

Former justice minister Alan Shatter leaving the Four Courts yesterday after a Court of Appeal
hearing. Photo: Collins Courts
Former justice minister Alan Shatter leaving the Four Courts yesterday after a Court of Appeal hearing. Photo: Collins Courts
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Former justice minister Alan Shatter is to get a declaration that his constitutional rights were breached by a report into Garda whistleblowing allegations.

However, efforts by the former Fine Gael TD to have parts of the report quashed are being opposed by lawyers for its author, barrister Sean Guerin SC.

Mr Shatter resigned as justice minister in 2014 after the report found he had failed to heed concerns raised by garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

But a commission of investigation, headed by Mr Justice Kevin O'Higgins, subsequently found Mr Shatter had dealt with the concerns appropriately.

A three-judge Court of Appeal heard yesterday there was a dispute between both sides as to what should happen following the court's ruling earlier this month that opinions critical of Mr Shatter in the Guerin report were reached in breach of his right to fair procedure as he was never asked to give his version of events.

Counsel for Mr Shatter, Paul Sreenan SC, said there was agreement between both sides on a declaration.

Read more: Sarah Carey: Why we should care about what happened to Shatter

However, orders being sought by Mr Shatter for the quashing of conclusions, that the quashing order be given to Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and that Mr Guerin amend his report and deliver it to the Taoiseach, have been opposed by lawyers for the senior counsel.

Paul Anthony McDermott SC, for Mr Guerin, said it was not within Mr Guerin's power to amend the report.

His client had been asked to write a report by the Government, had delivered it, and was no longer in control of it.

The court heard that despite the O'Higgins findings, Mr Guerin's report remains available on the Department of Taoiseach website and has not been edited.

"It is the Taoiseach who is in control of the report and it is the Taoiseach who would have to do anything. The Taoiseach is not in court," said Mr McDermott.

"Our point all along is that Mr Shatter sued the wrong party. He should have sued the Taoiseach, but we lost that argument."

However, Mr Sreenan said the orders sought were necessary to address "an injustice" done to Mr Shatter. If they were not granted a "stain on his reputation" would remain on the public record.

The president of the court, Mr Justice Sean Ryan, said it would be "a pyrrhic victory" for Mr Shatter if he obtained a declaration his rights were breached only for the report to remain in place.

He said the court would consider whether the orders should be granted and would deliver a ruling on the issue shortly.

Irish Independent

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