Politics

Thursday 21 August 2014

Revealed: how ruthless Taoiseach got rid of Shatter

Shatter: Can I have 24 hours to consider? Taoiseach: No, you will be a problem for me

MAEVE SHEEHAN, DANIEL McCONNELL, JOHN DRENNAN

Published 22/06/2014 | 02:30

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Enda Kenny and (inset) Alan Shatter
Enda Kenny and (inset) Alan Shatter

THE former Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, asked the Taoiseach for a 24-hour reprieve to study the damaging Guerin Report on the handling of Garda whistleblowers but Enda Kenny refused, forcing his immediate resignation from Cabinet.

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The Taoiseach told Mr Shatter it would be a "problem" for him to declare confidence in him as Justice Minister if he gave him time.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent, Mr Shatter disclosed what happened in the turbulent final hours of his ministerial career. The Taoiseach pressed him to consider carefully the contents of the Guerin Report as his response to it could potentially shorten the life of the Fine Gael-Labour Government

Hours after partially reading barrister Sean Guerin's conclusions, Mr Shatter told the Taoiseach: "I assume you want me to resign.

FULL STORY and INTERVIEW Page 2

"I was handed the report at 9.15am. I was told that the contents were very serious. I was told that the decision I made in relation to the report could affect the life of the Government and would I go away and consider the report?" said Mr Shatter.

He didn't get a chance to read the report until noon, when he read just three of the 20 chapters, and then had "further engagement" with Mr Kenny.

"I said to him I recognised the political reality of it, that I assumed he wished me to resign and that I would do so.

"I was very conscious of how supportive he had been to me in the context of the various controversies that have taken place..." he said.

"What I did suggest was that I be given 24 hours to read it in full. The Taoiseach's concern was that should he be asked questions in the Dail about 'could he have confidence in me,' in the light of what the conclusions that were in the report.

"He said that could pose a problem to him, and it was as simple as that."

Mr Shatter was speaking yesterday, days after he launched a scathing attack on the Guerin Report for being "fundamentally flawed" and for an "unprecedented rush to judgement".

He resigned last month, after the report found he had failed in his duty to properly investigate claims of malpractice in the force.Mr Shatter was the second casualty of a string of garda controversies. Martin Callinan resigned as Garda Commissioner in March, hours after Mr Kenny had sent the secretary general of the Department of Justice to see him.

Mr Shatter's dealings with Mr Kenny shed rare light on the Taoiseach's steely leadership style in the run-up to what is expected to be a ruthless cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Kenny is under pressure to instigate a radical shake-up of government ministers, with some of his closest allies now facing uncertain futures.

Mr Kenny is expected to move or demote James Reilly because of his troubled stint as Minister for Health, despite the fact that is among the Taoiseach's staunchest supporters.

Mr Kenny's former deputy leader, Richard Bruton, the minister responsible for job creation, is also thought to be in danger. It is believed that Labour may seek to annex the politically important Jobs portfolio in compensation for the heavy losses the party suffered in the local elections.

Despite Mr Kenny's increasingly harsh disposal of party stalwarts, he is under significant pressure from his own backbenchers to shake up his ministerial ranks following the loss of 105 Fine Gael council seats last month.

The Kerry TD Brendan Griffin, and Tony Lawlor, confronted Mr Kenny at last week's Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, demanding "radical change".

"Griffin laid into him, basically told the Taoiseach to f**k off and that he and others are not going to stay quiet," said one source at the meeting.

Mr Griffin and his fellow member of the rebel 'Five-a-Side Club', Carlow TD Pat Deering, were to the fore of public calls from within Fine Gael for Dr Reilly to be sacked as Health Minister.

Mr Kenny has jettisoned numerous high-profile political figures, including John Deasy, the Waterford TD, who breached the anti-smoking legislation, and Frank Flannery, the former Rehab lobbyist who was also a key political strategist in the party.

Mr Shatter told the Sunday Independent yesterday that he feels no "ill will" towards Mr Kenny.

"I would of course have appreciated an opportunity to read the whole report. I think the conclusions reached by Mr Guerin placed the Taoiseach in an impossible position," he said.

"I continue to regard the Taoiseach as a friend. I think this was a matter of great difficulty for him. I think the person who needs to clarify why he dealt with matters the way he did is Mr Geurin. I think the Taoiseach was put in an impossible position. I was put in an impossible position."

Sean Guerin was asked by Mr Kenny to review the handling of the whistleblower allegations. He concluded that garda management and Mr Shatter had failed in their duties to properly investigate claims of corruption and malpractice in the force and recommended a statutory inquiry to investigate them.

In a lengthy critique in the Dail last Thursday, Mr Shatter attacked Mr Guerin's failure to interview him for the inquiry, questioned his speed in finishing the report before getting all the information from the garda watchdog and of creating 'kangaroo courts'.

Mr Guerin did not return calls from the Sunday Independent.

Sunday Independent

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