Saturday 17 March 2018

Shatter in new bid to quash Guerin findings

Mr Shatter claims his constitutional rights to fair procedures were breached by Mr Guerin. (Picture: Frank McGrath)
Mr Shatter claims his constitutional rights to fair procedures were breached by Mr Guerin. (Picture: Frank McGrath)
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Alan Shatter had no option but to resign following the publication of a report alleging he failed to listen to a garda whistleblower, lawyers for the former justice minister have claimed.

The Court of Appeal was also told a "serious injustice" was done to Mr Shatter because barrister Sean Guerin SC did not seek his side of the story before publishing a scoping report about the handling of allegations made by Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

The claims were made as part of a legal challenge by Mr Shatter to the parts of the Guerin report that criticised him.

Mr Shatter claims his constitutional rights to fair procedures were breached by Mr Guerin.

The barrister was tasked by the Government with examining a series of allegations about the handling of cases in the Cavan/Monaghan division and how complaints about the conduct of investigations were dealt with. In a report delivered in May 2014, he accused Mr Shatter of not heeding Sgt McCabe's complaints.

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

Mr Shatter resigned a day after Mr Guerin's findings were published.

He has claimed that the Guerin report cost him his Dáil seat and that he was spat on, shouted at and harassed in public in the wake of its findings.

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

Mr Sreenan said that although Taoiseach Enda Kenny had corrected the Dáil record, there were still two contradictory versions of events on the public record.

Mr Shatter's counsel said his client enjoyed "an international reputation" and the fact the Guerin criticisms had not been quashed was damaging to him.

Mr Sreenan said Mr Shatter had suffered very significant adverse consequences at the latter end of a distinguished political career.

The findings may not have been made had Mr Guerin contacted Mr Shatter to get his version of events.

"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 Síochána 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.

Mr Sreenan said there was "no compelling reason" why such contact was not made.

Paul Anthony McDermott SC, for Mr Guerin, said Mr Shatter had resigned before reading the entirety of the Guerin report. He said the report clearly stated that Mr Guerin "had not been asked to adjudicate on any dispute" but "to answer a political question" as to whether a commission of investigation was needed.

He said Mr Shatter's resignation was not an inevitable consequence of the report.

The appeal was heard by a three-judge Court of Appeal, made of the court's president, Mr Justice Sean Ryan, Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan and Ms Justice Mary Irvine. The court reserved judgment.

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

Irish Independent

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