Wednesday 18 October 2017

Shatter wants whistleblower report to be 'withdrawn from circulation' after court victory

Former justice minister Alan Shatter. Photo: Collins Courts
Former justice minister Alan Shatter. Photo: Collins Courts
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is faced with the prospect of having to redact or remove from circulation the Guerin report on Garda whistleblowing, following a successful legal challenge by former justice minister Alan Shatter.

The Court of Appeal ruled the Government had an obligation to vindicate Mr Shatter's rights after finding parts of the report were "seriously damaging" to the former Fine Gael TD.

Its president, Mr Justice Sean Ryan, suggested that a chapter relating to Mr Shatter and another short passage elsewhere in the report could be redacted.

However, Mr Shatter said he wanted the full report withdrawn from the Oireachtas library and removed from circulation.

The court ruled yesterday that the State will have to pay Mr Shatter's legal costs for High Court and Court of Appeal cases he brought against barrister Sean Guerin's findings.

It also declared that findings against Mr Shatter were reached in breach of fair procedure and natural justice.

In a 2014 report commissioned by the Government, the senior counsel said Mr Shatter 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.

Mr Shatter has blamed the report for the loss of his Cabinet job. He lost his Dáil seat in last year's General Election.

A stay was put on the costs order until it is clear whether or not the matter will be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Mr Shatter was not granted orders he had sought for the quashing of conclusions, that the quashing order be given to Mr Kenny, and that Mr Guerin amend his report and deliver it to the Taoiseach. The court found these orders could not be granted as the report was no longer under Mr Guerin's control.

Redactions

Instead the court said Mr Shatter's lawyers could make other suggestions to the Government, such as seeking redactions.

Mr Shatter welcomed the ruling, but said he would be seeking for the report to be removed from the Oireachtas library and withdrawn from circulation.

"I don't believe I should have had to spend almost three years of my life doing battle in the court to establish that when there are allegations made against an individual they are entitled to be heard in defence of those allegations," he said.

"I now expect that the State will vindicate my constitutional rights, that the report will be removed from circulation and that steps will be taken by the Taoiseach to request that it be removed from the Oireachtas library. I hope it will be withdrawn without delay."

Irish Independent

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