Politics

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Kenny dumps Shatter over explosive report

* Taoiseach's 6am consultation with Attorney General
* Damning findings forced minister to offer resignation

Fionnan Sheahan, Philip Ryan, Niall O'Connor, Daniel McConnell and Dearbhail McDonald

Published 08/05/2014|02:30

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Alan Shatter

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny left Alan Shatter with no option but to quit as Justice Minister after presenting him with a damning report on his handling of allegations of garda wrongdoing.

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Mr Kenny got the 300-page report into allegations made by a Garda whistleblower, which identifies serious failings by the Garda Siochana, the Department of Justice and Mr Shatter, on Tuesday evening.

He and his senior officials studied the report and discussed its findings late that night.

Mr Kenny consulted with Attorney General Maire Whelan in a 6am phone call yesterday morning and also spoke again to his Department's Secretary General Martin Fraser and his chief adviser Mark Kennelly.

But Mr Shatter was kept in the dark until being summoned to Government Buildings to read key sections at 9am yesterday.

The minister only got a chance to read three chapters of the report before tendering his resignation.

Government sources said the findings made by Senior Counsel Sean Guerin are "very direct, factual and clear" so Mr Shatter had no option but to resign.

Mr Guerin's report, to be published tomorrow, is highly critical of Mr Shatter's handling of the whistleblowers' allegations of wrongdoing by gardai.

It also recommends a full Commission of Inquiry be established to investigate the affair. Parts of the report are so legally fraught that Mr Guerin has asked the Taoiseach to get further legal advice before making the contents public.

Mr Kenny described the report in the Dail as "factual and straight and hard-hitting".

"It points out the inadequacy of investigation in a range of authorities," he said.

In his resignation letter, Mr Shatter complains he wasn't given time to read the entire report and criticises Mr Guerin for not interviewing him in his investigation over the last two months.

Mr Shatter said he was resigning as he did not wish the controversy to surround the Coalition going into the local and European elections.

But the resignation of a minister who has been at the centre of a string of controversies is still enormously damaging to the government parties who have repeatedly had to defend him.

Less than two hours before Mr Shatter's resignation, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore had to again express confidence in the minister after he was found to have broken the law by revealing information about Independent TD Mick Wallace.

Mr Gilmore wasn't told about the report until an hour before Mr Kenny announced Mr Shatter's resignation to the Dail.

The Taoiseach is expected to appoint Mr Shatter's replacement at 11am this morning, with Frances Fitzgerald, Leo Varadkar and Charlie Flanagan in the running. There is also speculation around Simon Coveney, Phil Hogan and Paschal Donohoe.

President Michael D Higgins departs on an official visit to the United States at 11.30am but a new minister can be sworn in by three senior officeholders.

The investigation by Mr Guerin was set up on foot of allegations by garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, passed to the Taoiseach by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.

Mr Martin said the reasons that led to Mr Shatter's resignation were still unclear and he asked the Taoiseach to outline the detail.

FALLOUT

A source close to Sgt McCabe said the serving garda did not expect Mr Shatter's resignation.

"He has not seen the report but he is looking forward to reading it and he was not expecting Mr Shatter's resignation," a source said.

Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore met again last night to discuss the fallout from Mr Shatter's resignation. But the new Justice and Defence Minister is expected to still come from the Fine Gael ranks.

Mr Shatter, in his resignation letter, said he had concerns and reservations with how Mr Guerin arrived at certain conclusions. He said he was surprised that Mr Guerin had not received any documentation from the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission.

Mr Shatter also expressed surprise that he was not interviewed by Mr Guerin: "At no time did he ask to interview me and I would have expected, if it was his intention to reach a conclusion or form an opinion with regard to my approach or the extent of my concern with regard to the issues raised by Mr McCabe, that he would have done so," he said.

The report concludes that there was "an inadequate investigation and analysis" of the issues raised by the whistleblower by a variety of agencies.

Under the terms of reference, Mr Guerin was authorised to interview Mr McCabe and any other such person as may be considered necessary of providing relevant and material assistance.

Mr Shatter described Mr Kenny as an "extraordinary Taoiseach doing an extraordinary job during what has been a difficult time for our country and I want to thank you for all the assistance and support you have given to me". He thanked Mr Gilmore and his Cabinet colleagues in "both parties".

Last night, the Bar Council and Law Society, the representative bodies for the country's barristers and solicitors, refused to comment on Mr Shatter's resignation.

The professional bodies have been at odds with Mr Shatter over his plans to overhaul the legal sector.

The terms of the bill, which includes the creation of an overarching regulator, are at an advanced stage and will fall for completion by Mr Shatter's successor. But the profession refused to be drawn on the controversy. "We have nothing to say, it (the resignation) has nothing to do with us" said Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society.

Campaigners will also be anxious that Mr Shatter's replacement will advance other key laws including the Children and Family Relationships Bill regarded as the most important area of family law reform for a generation.

Irish Independent

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