'It has echoes of the discredited McCarthy era'
Yesterday's Irish Independent reported Justice Minister Alan Shatter's refusal to say if he met his former Fine Gael colleague, the disgraced Independent TD Michael Lowry. The report pointed out the minister's stance is at odds with the transparent approach of his cabinet colleagues, each of whom answered the question on meetings with Mr Lowry a week ago. After promising to respond yesterday morning, Mr Shatter released the following statement in the afternoon:
'There is predictably a grossly misleading headline in today's Irish Independent. It quotes me as saying that "I refuse to reveal if I met Lowry". In fact, in reply to a query from the journalist concerned, as reported in the body of the story, he was informed that "As Minister for Justice I am not participating in Independent Newspapers agenda." This is an agenda that has been in play for some time. As Minister for Justice it is my obligation to uphold the rule of law. The Garda Commissioner is consulting with the Director of Public Prosecutions as to whether aspects of the Moriarty Report may be pursued from a criminal point of view and as Minister for Justice I am determined to ensure that I neither do nor say anything that could prejudice matters. This is entirely consistent with my contribution in the Dail to the debate on the Moriarty Report.
The loaded question posed by the Independent journalist is designed to elicit a response that facilitates the publication of a story that either condemns Michael Lowry or implies guilt by association or both. I am unwilling to engage in an unethical media project of compiling a blacklist of elected TDs that Ministers should not meet on legitimate official business and also with whom no conversations should ever take place. It is worth asking in this context, in addition to Michael Lowry, who from Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail and TDs from smaller parties and none should be included in such list? Should Ministers only legitimately engage with those TDs with whose words and deeds, both past and present, they agree or with those approved by the media? This is a slippery slope we should not slide down nor encourage. It has echoes of the discredited McCarthy era of the 1950s in US politics. We should not allow such an approach to gain even a foothold in a robust constitutional democracy that takes political elective office and constituency representation seriously.'