JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter has rounded on Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin while rejecting all allegations that he botched the handling of complaints against the gardai.
But Mr Shatter launched a bullish counter-attack to stinging criticism of his role in the crisis. He rejected allegations that he misled the Dail by saying whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe had not co-operated with an internal garda inquiry into penalty points.
This contention is strongly denied by Sgt McCabe and leading opposition politicians who support him.
Mr Shatter sought to downplay this aspect of the row, conceding there was confusion and Sgt McCabe had been "invited" rather than "directed" to give evidence.
"Common sense would suggest to me that there may be fault on both sides," the Justice Minister told the Dail. But the minister also dismissed pressure to either withdraw or apologise for his claim of non-co-operation by Sgt McCabe.
He also questioned why Sgt McCabe had secretly taped a conversation, saying in any other circumstances there would be "uproar".
"Someone who had such commitment to this issue was advised that if they had further evidence, they should give it to the garda authorities, and they did not do so. I do not see how that could be described as co-operation," Mr Shatter added.
Mr Shatter declined to comment on Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan's remark to a Dail committee that whistleblowers' behaviour had been "quite disgusting".
He said he had not been at that Dail committee and he had not read the transcript.
Sgt McCabe gave another statement to Fianna Fail yesterday in which he called the commissioner's explanations for not contacting him during the penalty points inquiry "bizarre".
In the document seen by the Irish Independent, Sgt McCabe says the investigation team "never contacted, interviewed, called, rang, texted, emailed, faxed or visited" him during the review. He also says he is willing to produce phone records to show he was never contacted during the inquiry.
In two lengthy Dail contributions, Mr Shatter went through the investigations undertaken on complaints made by Sgt McCabe. In particular, the minister said the circumstances around the release on bail of Jerry McGrath, who subsequently murdered Sylvia Roche-Kelly in Limerick in 2007, were thoroughly investigated by the Garda Ombudsman.
The Justice Minister hit back at Mr Martin's claims that allegations of mismanagement of cases made by the whistleblower were ignored for two years.
He said this amounted to false accusations of undermining the administration of justice, while his life's work was about improving the justice system in Ireland.
"It was Deputy Martin's party that obstinately opposed and delayed the implementation of crucial reform and the modernisation of our criminal justice system," Mr Shatter said.
Mr Martin said the minister should issue a personal apology to Sgt McCabe. He also dismissed what he termed "cynical and pathetic" attempts to blame shortcomings on the previous Fianna Fail-led government.
John Downing, Fionnan Sheahan and Philip Ryan