Irish News

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Shatter told to clear up watchdog bug scandal

Labour ministers show support for beleaguered cabinet colleague

FIONNAN SHEAHAN and JOHN DRENNAN

Published 16/02/2014 | 02:30

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Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Steve Humphreys

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter is being urged by his coalition colleagues to clear up the Garda Ombudsman bugging controversy within the coming days.

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But the latest revelations contained in today's Sunday Independent will add to the pressure on the Government to set up an independent inquiry into the bugging affair.

The Labour Party is continuing to be publicly supportive of the embattled Justice Minister. At the Labour national conference yesterday, ministers ruled out the need for an inquiry.

Mr Shatter is understood to be studying a report of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission's investigation into its suspicion gardai were bugging its offices.

Mr Shatter is due to appear before an Oireachtas committee on Wednesday to answer questions on the issue.

He is understood to have received a report on the outcome of the investigation undertaken by GSOC into its bugging suspicions.

Rather than a full copy of the GSOC investigation into suspected garda involvement in the bugging, the minister received a summary of the report.

The Labour Party has sent out a number of implicit warnings to Mr Shatter that they expect the unedifying controversy to be finally resolved when he appears next week before the Oireachtas Public Service Oversight and Petitions Committee.

Fianna Fail is continuing to call for an independent investigation under the Commission or Investigation Act 2004.

Writing in today's Sunday Independent, the party's justice spokesman Niall Collins says the investigation should be composed of a senior judicial figure, security expert and external policing expert.

"At stake here is the integrity of the oversight system we have put in place to uphold faith in our policing system," he said.

But the Coalition continues to rule out a public inquiry.

"Minister Shatter has outlined the position. The government position is there is no requirement for an independent inquiry," a government spokesman said.

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Labour Party deputy leader Joan Burton said she felt it was possible to resolve the matter without an inquiry.

"I don't think we need to run to establish a commission at the drop of a hat," she said.

But the Social Protection Minister also piled pressure on the minister to clear up the matter.

"It is important the issue be resolved as quickly as possible," she said.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said there were two different investigations going on.

"Surely the last thing we need is a third public inquiry," he said.

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said previous public inquiries had been characterised by high expense and major legal costs.

"This is something that is not needed. My instinct, in common with my ministerial colleague Pat Rabbitte, is the Petitions Committee should explore the process and come back with a Report; it would be far more effective and speedy and they have been quite effective to date," Mr Quinn said.

Within Cabinet, Labour ministers have made it clear that maintaining respect for the Garda Ombudsman and the independence of the office is vital.

Mr Shatter asked GSOC to clarify a number of aspects of its account to him of the bugging. He received a response on Friday night and is understood to have received other material.

"The minister is considering all of the material received from GSOC since its appearance before the Oireachtas committee, including the response to his letter," a spokesperson said.

Coalition ministers warned Mr Shatter needs to "draw a line in the sand" on Wednesday to avoid the development of a full-blown crisis.

"It should be entirely possible to resolve the current disputes, that is what ministerial diplomacy is all about, Alan is going to have to reserve a lot of time and thought in this, it will represent a real test of his diplomatic abilities," a minister told the Sunday Independent.

"It is the Minister for Justice's job to negotiate a satisfactory outcome; he will be on a sticky wicket if he doesn't."

Sunday Independent

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