Irish News

Thursday 24 July 2014

Justice Minister apologises to whistleblowers

  • Shatter apologises to whistleblowers for wrongly claiming that they failed to cooperate with a garda inquiry into the penalty points controversy
  • Taoiseach accused of “sacking” Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan over recording of conversations in garda stations
  • “You essentially sacked him,” Fianna Fail's Micheal Martin said
  • It remains to be seen whether Mr Shatter's apology will be enough to salvage ministerial role
  • Garda Inspectorate report found "consistent and widespread breaches of policy" by those who had access to penalty points system
  • Mr Shatter said the practice of recording phone calls to and from garda stations is of "serious concern"

    Niall O’Connor

    Published 26/03/2014|16:28

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    Justice Minister Alan Shatter
    Justice Minister Alan Shatter

    Justice Minister Alan Shatter has apologised to the two garda whistleblowers for wrongly claiming that they failed to cooperate with a garda inquiry into the penalty points controversy.

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    Mr Shatter today finally bowed to intense pressure and moved to correct the Dail record over his remarks.

    The Fine Gael minister is attempting to weather the most serious political storm experienced by the coalition since it came to power in 2011.

    He told the Dail that he accepts that his comments caused "some upset and distress" to the whistleblowers.

    He said that his remarks were incorrect and that it was never his intention to mislead the Dail.

    "It was never my intention to cause any upset and if any upset was caused I hope that my correcting the record of the Dail today will put this matter to rest,"Mr Shatter said during his second Dail appearance within hours.

    He also apologised for any offence that may have been caused for remarks he made about the whistleblowers outside of the Dail.

    The minister sparked uproar after he initially claimed that the two whistleblowers did not cooperate with the O'Mahoney investigation into the quashing of penalty points.

    Despite being offered several opportunities within recent weeks to correct the record and apologise, Mr Shatter consistently refused to do so.

    Speaking in the Dail, Mr Shatter said he now wants to move away from the penalty points controversy.

    "I hope the House can agree that it would be in the public interest to do what we can to move on from the present controversy in relation to penalty points and get on with the work which is under way which will achieve a fair, transparent and effective system," he said.

    But it now remains to be seen whether Mr Shatter's apology will be enough to salvage his position as Justice Minister.

    On the issue of the penalty points controversy, Mr Shatter said he acted in the public interest at all times.

    He added that he deems it unacceptable for any member of the force to use their discretion "other than in a fair and impartial manner" in accordance with the rules.

    "It is clearly a serious matter where departures have taken place in applying that standard and all required steps must be taken to ensure it does not happen in future," according to the minister.

    He said however there is so far no evidence to back up a raft of claims relating to criminality within An Garda Siochana.

    These allegations, Mr Shatter said, relate to "shocking criminality, serious fraud and corruption".

    Mr Shatter reiterated that a full review of An Garda Siochana, as agreed under the Haddington Road Agreement, will be completed by September.

    The minister was speaking during a scheduled debate on the Garda Inspectorate report, which found "consistent and widespread breaches of policy" by those who had access to the penalty points system.

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