Saturday 24 February 2018

Alan Shatter sought exclusion from new inquiry

Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter. CourtPix
Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter. CourtPix
Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Dessie Ellis, Gerry Adams and Senator Kathryn Reilly Photo: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

FORMER Justice Minister Alan Shatter and his lawyers engaged in a long campaign to have him excluded from the new inquiry into alleged garda misconduct.

Mr Shatter's argument - that including him in the inquiry would prejudice a forthcoming High Court challenge due for hearing in April - were strongly rejected by the Taoiseach and the Ceann Comhairle.

A lengthy correspondence between Mr Shatter and his lawyer with both the Taoiseach and Ceann Comhairle was published in full last night.

The move came as Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett made peace with Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, ending a row which had threatened his job. Mr Barrett ended six days of conflict with the opposition parties and headed off a no-confidence motion which would have obliged him to resign. But Mr Barrett also insisted that he had come under no pressure last week to rule out debate on a motion setting up the new garda inquiry.

Crucially, Mr Barrett withdrew claims made on radio last Friday that Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil were out to undermine him.

Both Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams accepted Mr Barrett's response.

But the opposition moved to challenge the Taoiseach on what role he had in Mr Shatter's efforts to change terms of reference for the forthcoming inquiry into garda misconduct in Cavan-Monaghan to be headed by Judge Kevin O'Higgins.

Mr Kenny said the Government had decided to include Mr Shatter and said that he would publish all correspondence in relation to the matter.

Earlier, the Ceann Comhairle's office published its correspondence between Mr Shatter and his lawyers in the matter.

With government, Mr Shatter argued that the forthcoming commission of inquiry is based on an initial investigation by senior counsel, Sean Guerin.

Mr Shatter, who quit his ministerial post last May because of the Guerin report, argued that including him in the terms of reference effectively accepted the Guerin conclusions. This was before the High Court ruled on Mr Shatter's challenge.

In the case of the Dáil, Mr Shatter unsuccessfully sought a change to the terms of reference approved by the Government. The Ceann Comhairle said the Dail had no power to do that but he would rule out a debate to protect against prejudicing court proceedings.

Earlier the Ceann Comhairle accepted that the Dáil rule, Order 57, under which he had acted, was open to different interpretations and that he would engage in talks aimed at avoiding future disputes.

And he withdrew the comments made on RTE radio last Friday in which he alleged Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil were seeking to undermine him.

Mr Barrett accepted that "in the heat of the moment" what he said on radio was wrong.

Irish Independent

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