Wednesday 28 September 2016

Taoiseach corrects Dáil record in relation to statements he made about Alan Shatter

Published 25/05/2016 | 16:19

Alan Shatter and Enda Kenny Picture: Steve Humphreys
Alan Shatter and Enda Kenny Picture: Steve Humphreys

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has corrected the Dáil record relating to statements he made about former justice minister Alan Shatter.

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Mr Kenny has today described the ex-Fine Gael TD as “an exceptionally hardworking, radical and reforming minister who has left a positive legacy across a wide range of areas for which he had ministerial responsibilities”.

And he said he was “very pleased” that the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation in alleged garda misconduct had found that Mr Shatter “acted properly at all times in relation to his handling of allegations made by Maurice McCabe”.

Mr Shatter wrote to the Taoiseach in the wake of the publication of the O’Higgins’ Report seeking clarification of statements made by Mr Kenny in the Dáil on the occasion of his resignation.

At that stage Mr Kenny said that the outgoing minister had accepted responsibility for criticisms made in the Guerin Report, which was a scoping inquiry that led to the O’Higgins’ Commission.

“I am happy to state on the record that the former minister in resigning did not in fact accept responsibility for criticism made in the Guerin Report or adequacy of the Department or Minister for Justice in responding to allegation made by Sergeant McCabe,” Mr Kenny said today.

The Taoiseach noted that Mr Shatter also raised a series of other concerns in a recent letter but these are currently the subject of legal proceedings and can therefore not be addressed until that process is completed.

However, Mr Kenny did say that suggestions relating to how scoping investigations are run “merit further examination”.

“I would like emphasis as I did at the time of his resignation that Alan Shatter was an exceptionally hardworking, radical and reforming minister who has left a positive legacy across a wide range of areas for which he had ministerial responsibilities,” Mr Kenny said.

Mr Shatter’s successor as Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald also praised his work in the Dáil.

“We should recognise the contribution that Alan Shatter has made to public life and in particular the many achievements, particularly in the legislative sphere, of his time as Minister for Justice.

“Far from finding the slightest fault with the approach of Alan to any of these serious matters, the report  uses descriptions such as ‘appropriate’ and ‘entirely reasonable’ to characterise his behaviour in all the matters involved,” she said.

 Ms Fitzgerald also revealed that she is to ask the Policing Authority to review the way Garda whistleblowers are dealt with and to find quicker ways of testing the veracity of their allegations.

“What can be a great virtue in some circumstances can become a great vice in others.  And while ranks have to be closed against those who pose danger to the community, they should never be closed against the truth, however unpalatable that truth is,” she said.

“The lesson from the O'Higgins report is clear: An Garda Síochána can only benefit from taking seriously allegations of wrongdoing by its own members, valuing them and supporting those who bring these matters to light.

“We never want to see again the situation in which Maurice McCabe found himself; nor do we want to see people having to live for long periods under the shadow of unfounded allegations.”

Ms Fitzgerald said laws “of themselves do not change culture”.

“That requires a relentless reinforcement of the values of the organisation, led from the top.  And while I believe there has been clear progress, I think it is in the interests of An Garda Síochána, and the public interest, that there is independent verification of that,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“So I can tell the House today I will be using the powers available to me under the legislation establishing the Policing Authority to ask the Authority to conduct a detailed examination of the procedures and policies around whistleblowing in An Garda Síochána and to prepare a report on the matter, including any recommendations necessary to ensure those arrangements operate to best practice.”

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