Shatter says Kenny 'now has a duty' to correct Dáil record
The findings of the O'Higgins report into allegations of Garda malpractice and corruption has bolstered the prospects of former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and ex-Justice Minister Alan Shatter successfully seeking official vindication from the State.
Both of them resigned their posts in circumstances where they felt they were given little option.
Mr Shatter is poised to use the findings as part of a legal appeal against the findings of the Guerin report, which triggered his resignation.
Mr Callinan has yet to disclose whether he intends to take legal action. But the findings of Mr Justice Kevin O'Higgins, published yesterday, will boost any potential bids to secure an apology from the State.
The clear decision by Mr Justice O'Higgins was in stark contrast to an earlier determination by senior counsel Sean Guerin, who had also examined the allegations of Garda corruption and malpractice in the Cavan-Monaghan division.
Mr Guerin concluded that the two men had failed in their duties to properly investigate the allegations levelled by whistleblower, Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
He said the Garda inquiries were inadequate, as were the responses from Mr Shatter and Justice officials when the allegations were passed onto them for assessment.
However, the O'Higgins report, which has been fully accepted by Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, found Mr Shatter had referred the complaints to the Garda Commissioner and did not have a case to answer.
"No criticism can be made of the course of action adopted by the minister at that time," it said.
It also concluded that Mr Shatter could not be faulted for not taking further action when Sgt McCabe requested an inquiry in September 2012, as Sgt McCabe was asserting "confidentiality over relevant correspondence".
The report also determined there was no evidence of criminality or corruption in the Cavan-Monaghan division and that exchanges between Mr Callinan, Mr Shatter and the Department of Justice during the handling of Sgt McCabe's complaints were appropriate and professional.
The report also found there was "not a scintilla" of evidence to support what he termed an "unfounded and deeply hurtful" allegation of corruption made against Mr Callinan by Sgt McCabe.
Speaking after the publication of the report, Ms Fitzgerald said she had sympathy for Mr Callinan and Mr Shatter, but declined to issue an apology on behalf of the Government.
Mr Callinan was not available for comment on the findings and has not spoken publicly about the affair since he resigned from office following a late night visit to his Dublin home by then secretary general of the Department of Justice, Brian Purcell, on the direction of Taoiseach Enda Kenny. He has not yet made it clear whether he intends to take legal action over what was widely believed at the time to be his forced retirement.
In a lengthy statement, Mr Shatter said the Taoiseach now had a duty to correct the Dáil record and claimed his previous concerns about the Guerin report had been ignored by all sides and also ridiculed and criticised by some commentators.
Mr Shatter called on the new Government to ensure that those adverse conclusions and opinions were acknowledged to be in error and the report withdrawn from circulation in its current form. Last night, the Taoiseach said that Mr Shatter had set out his reasons for his resignation in a "very clear and comprehensive letter".
"I am glad that the report confirms the former minister did his work well, and it makes that very clear," Mr Kenny added. "The reason I'm glad is that Alan has had his work as minister confirmed by the O'Higgins report."
Mr Justice O'Higgins also found there was no evidence of corruption against other senior officers, including Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne, whom he described as a man of integrity, highly competent and clearly committed to the good of the force.
A statement issued by An Garda Síochána welcomed the fact that there was no finding of corruption against any member of the force and said there had been a number of improvements implemented.
Overall, the findings identified that there had been problems with some policing issues, particularly in the Bailieboro district, where the lack of a full-time supervisory inspector had been a key factor. But there was nothing corrupt about the way those issues had been handled.