Monday 11 December 2017

Former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter in Court of Appeal battle over claims he ignored whistleblower

Former minister Alan Shatter (Picture: Frank McGrath)
Former minister Alan Shatter (Picture: Frank McGrath)

Shane Phelan Legal Affairs Editor

Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter has begun a Court of Appeal challenge seeking the quashing of criticism of him in the Guerin report.

The hearing comes after the O’Higgins Commission contradicted findings made in a scoping report by barrister Sean Guerin, who was appointed by the Government to examine allegations made by garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

In a report delivered in May 2014, Mr Guerin found Mr Shatter had not heeded Sgt McCabe’s complaints in relation to shortcomings in garda investigations in the Cavan/Monaghan division.

However, retired High Court judge Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins, who headed up a commission of investigation launched in the wake of the Guerin report, subsequently found Mr Shatter had dealt with the complaints appropriately.

Mr Shatter resigned due to Mr Guerin’s findings and recently said he “felt like a murderer” after the Guerin report was published.

The former TD said he believed the Guerin report cost him his Dáil seat and has described how he was spat on, shouted at and harassed in public in the wake of its findings.

In the Court of Appeal today, Mr Shatter’s counsel Paul Sreenan SC said his client was entitled to have relevant parts of the Guerin report quashed.

He said there were two contradictory versions of what happened on the public record and these were easily accessible to people in Ireland and abroad.

Mr Sreenan said Mr Shatter enjoyed “an international reputation” and the fact the Guerin criticisms had not been quashed was damaging to his client.

Counsel said fair procedures were not used by Mr Guerin as Mr Shatter had not been contacted by the barrister for his version of events before the critical report was published.

“The entitlement to fair procedures existed and was breached. That is the core of our argument,” said Mr Sreenan.

Counsel said that under Mr Guerin’s terms of reference he was mandated to communicate with An Garda Siochana and other relevant entities or bodies, which “clearly included the minister”.

“We think he should have observed fair procedures if he was going to criticise the minister,” he said.

The appeal is being heard by a three-judge Court of Appeal, made of of the court’s president, Mr Justice Sean Ryan, as well as Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan and Ms Justice Mary Irvine.

Mr Shatter previously failed in a High Court challenge to the findings of the Guerin report in May last year.

However, that challenge took place before the O’Higgins Commission reported.

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