Thursday 26 April 2018

Here are key questions surrounding the Shatter affair

Alan Shatter and former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Alan Shatter and former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan

Compiled by Philip Ryan

Five crucial questions about the Shatter affair

What did Enda Kenny tell Brian Purcell to say to Martin Callinan?

At the height of the garda scandals, the alleged secret recording of non-emergency telephone calls in garda stations emerged. The Government was concerned that the recordings posed serious legal implications for criminal trials. On March 24, the night before the tapes became public, Taoiseach Enda Kenny sent Department of Justice Secretary General Brian Purcell to former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan's home. The following day, Mr Callinan, below, resigned and the Government established a Commission of Investigation to examine the legality of the recordings. Mr Kenny has so far refused to reveal what he told Mr Purcell to say to Mr Callinan. The Taoiseach needs Cabinet approval to sack a commissioner, which he did not have in this instance. Mr Kenny previously said he asked Mr Purcell to let Mr Callinan know the "gravity" of the secret recordings.

Why wasn't Alan Shatter given Callinan's letter on the garda station recordings?

Mr Callinan sent a letter to the Department of Justice on March 10 detailing the actions he had taken on the taping of non-emergency calls in garda stations. Mr Purcell forwarded the letter to the department's garda division, where it was "worked on" by officials. Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter was unaware of the letter at the time and did not know about it for the following two weeks. Attorney General Marie Whelan called the Taoiseach on Sunday, March 23 to relay her concerns about the recordings. The following day, Mr Kenny summoned Mr Shatter to his office to discuss the recordings. Mr Shatter was briefed by Mr Purcell on the tapes that evening but the secretary general only gave the former minister the letter the following day.

Was there widespread illegal recording of non-emergency telephone calls in garda stations?

Judge Nial Fennelly was appointed to investigate the recording of non-emergency telephone calls in garda stations over a 30-year period. The Commission of Investigation will cost around €2m and is due to report back to the Government by the end of the year. A database of almost 2,500 tapes and digital recordings from garda stations around the country are under investigation. The investigation was sparked by a legal case taken against the State by former journalist Ian Bailey, who was twice arrested following the murder of French film producer Sophie Toscan Du Plantier. Mr Bailey is claiming damages against the State, and recordings of conversations in Bandon garda station in Cork will form part of the case. It emerged last weekend that the Bandon garda station calls may be the only tapes which were illegally recorded.

Why, allegedly, wasn't Shatter given the Attorney General's advice on whistleblowers? 

Mr Shatter claims he sought legal advice from the Attorney General's (AG) office on how to address serious claims of garda malpractice raised by garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe. The former justice minister instructed his officials to seek the advice in autumn 2013, according to a letter Mr Shatter wrote to the Taoiseach two weeks after his resignation. He claims the first he learned of the response was on reading barrister Sean Guerin's report on Sgt McCabe's allegations. The report claims the department received the advice in December 2013. Mr Guerin's report claims the AG advised that Sgt McCabe's allegations should be forwarded immediately to the minister. Mr Shatter claims this is incorrect and the AG, in fact, said the allegations should be given to the Garda Commissioner. He also claims Mr Guerin failed to mention the AG's instructions not to establish a Commission of Investigation.

Why was Callinan allegedly blocked from withdrawing his 'disgusting' remark?

It has been claimed the former Garda Commissioner was due to withdraw his "disgusting" remark about Sgt McCabe and retired garda John Wilson, which he made at an Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee meeting. In the weeks leading up to his resignation, Mr Callinan was under increasing public pressure and was reportedly prepared to retract the comment. It is claimed he spoke with Department of Justice officials during this period and was understood to be willing to issue a statement. However, on the advice of civil servants he did not retract the comments, according to reports. The Department of Justice admitted officials were discussing the remarks with Mr Callinan but denied he was told not to take back the comments.

Sunday Independent

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