Tuesday 22 October 2019

'Grievously wronged' - Alan Shatter demands full State apology from Taoiseach

Legal letters also seek removal of Guerin report from library

Letters: Alan Shatter
Letters: Alan Shatter
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter is demanding an apology on behalf of the State from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

In a series of legal letters to Mr Varadkar in recent months, Mr Shatter has hit out at the Government's failure to apologise to him for the circumstances surrounding his resignation from Cabinet five years ago, while at the same time apologising to abuse victims.

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Mr Shatter's solicitor has told Mr Varadkar that his former Cabinet colleague has been "grievously wronged by the State's gross violation" of his constitutional and personal rights, wants a comprehensive State apology and the removal of the Guerin Report, which brought about his resignation, from the Oireachtas library.

Mr Shatter resigned as justice minister in May 2014 when then-taoiseach Enda Kenny said he could no longer express confidence in him after he received a report from barrister Sean Guerin which criticised Mr Shatter's handling of Garda misconduct allegations by whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

The O'Higgins Commission later vindicated Mr Shatter, finding he had handled the allegations properly. The Court of Appeal subsequently ruled that the Guerin report breached Mr Shatter's constitutional rights. Mr Guerin, whose full legal costs are being covered by Mr Varadkar's department, challenged this ruling to the Supreme Court which ruled in Mr Shatter's favour earlier this year.

While the report has been removed from the Department of the Taoiseach's website, it remains in the Houses of the Oireachtas library, Mr Shatter has not received any formal apology or acknowledgement of wrongdoing against him from the Government.

In his most recent letter to the Taoiseach on July 22 last, Mr Shatter's solicitor Brian Gallagher referred to the Dail apology from Mr Varadkar to victims of sexual abuse in day schools following a Supreme Court judgement on July 9.

Mr Gallagher wrote: "Whilst you and members of Government rightly swiftly responded to a recent Supreme Court decision by apologising for the State's wrongful action and promising to make amends, both you and the Government continue to fail to take the action necessary to correct the Dail record, withdraw the Guerin Report and acknowledge the wrong done to our client."

He continued: "We believe the State, through the Government, has both a constitutional, legal and moral duty to publicly address these issues regardless of the composition of the Government.

"It is, however, particularly astonishing and regrettable that a Government led by a Fine Gael Taoiseach, substantially composed of Fine Gael members, has failed to do so having regard to our client's 39 years of Fine Gael membership and his dedicated service to the State as a public representative and former member of Government."

In a previous letter on June 28, Mr Shatter's legal representative set out his client's demands, including a statement in the Dail to correct the record which expressly acknowledges that Mr Guerin's criticisms were wrong, and that the Government should not have endorsed his findings.

Mr Shatter is also demanding that the Taoiseach acknowledges that Mr Shatter was "grievously wronged by the State's gross violation of our client's constitutional and personal rights and, in particular, his right to his good name and reputation, to constitutional justice and a fair hearing".

Mr Shatter is also demanding a motion moved in the Dail and Seanad to remove Mr Guerin's report from the Oireachtas library.

Mr Shatter told the Sunday Independent that it is "bizarre and unusual" that Mr Varadkar was not willing to address the matter. "In my 30 years of involvement with Fine Gael, one basic principle was to respect the rule of law and another was a sense of decency in dealing with these issues. These have been abandoned," he said.

Mr Shatter said he had no wish to issue further legal proceedings on the matter or sue the State but that the Supreme Court ruling in his favour earlier this year "has profound implications on public law" and was being "entirely ignored by the Government".

In response to queries about whether the Taoiseach believes Mr Shatter is owed an apology, a Government spokesperson said Mr Shatter's rights have been vindicated by the courts. They said this had been formally acknowledged in the Dail in May 2016 when, on foot of the O'Higgins Commission findings, Mr Kenny said: "I am pleased to acknowledge that the O'Higgins report found clearly that the former Minister acted properly at all times in relation to the handling of allegations made by Maurice McCabe."

The spokesperson added that Mr Guerin's full legal costs were still being assessed by the State Claims Agency.

Contacted last week, Mr Guerin said: "I am not going to be making any public comment about that at all."

Sunday Independent

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