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Shatter to stay silent at Fennelly debate


Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter

Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter

Frank Mc Grath

Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter

Government figures have expressed relief after former Justice Minister Alan Shatter failed to apply for speaking time ahead of today's debate on the damning findings of the Fennelly Commission report.

There had been fears that Mr Shatter would use the debate to criticise his party leader after directly contradicting Mr Kenny's evidence during his appearances in front of Mr Justice Nial Fennelly.

The report notes that during one hearing, Mr Shatter went as far as to describe one Mr Kenny's claims as "fantasy".

He was referring to the Taoiseach's evidence that he dispatched senior civil servant Brian Purcell to the home of former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in order to ascertain his views on the emerging garda tapes controversy.

Mr Shatter, however, said Mr Purcell was asked to convey that the Taoiseach viewed the situation as very grave and that he would have difficulty in expressing confidence in Mr Callinan if asked to do so.

Mr Justice Fennelly described the decision to dispatch Mr Purcell as the "immediate catalyst" for Mr Callinan's decision to step down. But his assertion that Mr Shatter viewed the Taoiseach's claim as 'fantasy' is one of the most significant elements of the report.

"He thought the notion that Mr Purcell had been 'asked to go and seek information was fantasy'," the report states.

Fianna Fáil's justice spokesperson Niall Collins called on Mr Shatter to make a contribution given his claims about Mr Kenny's evidence.

"Deputy Shatter told the Commission that the Taoiseach's claim was 'fantasy' so you would hope that he will follow through and contribute to the debate on our motion," Mr Collins said.

But as of last night, Mr Shatter had yet to formally apply for a speaking slot.

"It appears he has decided not to make a contribution," a source said.

The debate has been turned into a motion of confidence in Mr Kenny and the Government in a bid to counter a motion of no confidence tabled by Fianna Fáil.

Fine Gael and Labour ministers, including Tánaiste Joan Burton, will rally behind the Taoiseach and reiterate Mr Justice Fennelly's finding that Mr Callinan departed on his own accord.

Junior Finance Minister Simon Harris accused Fianna Fáil of trying to engage in "political set pieces" by tabling the motion of no confidence.

"Clearly Fianna Fáil don't want to debate the economy because of their dismal record so instead they wish to engage in political theatrics. Michéal Martin told us the era of 'Punch and Judy' politics would end with his Fianna Fáil leadership - instead he continues it with gusto," Mr Harris said.

Some three hours will be set aside for today's confidence debate, which will be followed by a formal vote tomorrow.

Mr Kenny will not be present for the vote as he will be in Brussels. TDs will also debate the Marriage Equality legislation this week, while the Capital Spending plan is expected to be unveiled on Tuesday.

Irish Independent