Wednesday 13 December 2017

Opposition leaders unite against plan by Shatter to decide GSOC terms of reference

Daniel McConnell Political Correspondent

Opposition leaders have derided the Government's decision to have Justice Minister Alan Shatter decide on the terms of reference of its review into the alleged bugging of the offices of the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dail that the retired High Court judge's review of the alleged bugging of the offices will be bound by terms set by Mr Shatter.

During Leaders' Questions, he said the Government's decision to establish a judicial review was done in "the interests of truth and honesty".

Mr Shatter was the focus of considerable criticism from the opposition leaders Micheal Martin of Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald during their exchanges with Mr Kenny.

"The Minister for Justice has been deliberately evasive, used tactics to distract attention away from key facts. Why leave the terms of reference in his hands? Will the full report be made public?" Ms McDonald asked.

"He has hardly covered himself in glory here," she added.

Mr Kenny told the Dail that the judge's review will not be run in line with the 2004 Oireachtas Inquiries Act, but rather will be based on the terms of reference set down by Mr Shatter in consultation with Attorney General Maire Whelan.

Pressed as to what status the inquiry will have, Mr Kenny said it will report back within eight weeks.

Mr Kenny said the retired judge, who is expected to be named today, will have access to all reports and documents relevant to the controversy. The Taoiseach told the Dail that the judge will also have access to expert personnel to explain more technical matters.

"Some of the comments made have been quite confusing, but the Government's decision is in the interests of finding fact," Mr Kenny said.

Mr Martin said Mr Shatter "did not level with the Dail", accusing him of "wanting to down play" the controversy last week.

Because of Mr Shatter's assertion that no bugging had taken place, Mr Martin said that GSOC Commissioner Kieran Fitzgerald had to go on television and "bury that notion".

"He should man up and apologise to the house," Mr Martin said in reference to Mr Shatter.

Mr Martin said the affair has undermined the administration of justice.

Mr Kenny responded sharply to such suggestions, saying that if the Fianna Fail leader had information about the mal-administration of justice "then it is your duty to report it to the Minister for Justice."

Irish Independent

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