Sunday 25 February 2018

Shatter denies admonishing Taoiseach over court letter

The letter forwarded to Justice Minister Alan Shatter. Cormac McQuinn

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter has denied he "admonished" Enda Kenny in response to a letter he was forwarded regarding a family law matter involving one of the Taoiseach's constituents.

Mr Kenny referred in the letter to previous correspondence he had sent Mr Shatter "regarding an issue on family law" and asked the minister to "let me know the present position in this case".

Mr Shatter said the Taoiseach had "merely requested that I 'examine the points raised' in the constituent's letter and 'advise' him in due course as to the appropriate reply".

The letter is one of an avalanche of constituents' inquiries that Mr Kenny has been passing on to government departments since he became Taoiseach, despite his promise to take the "parish pump" out of politics.

Other records show how:

• Mr Kenny wrote to Mr Shatter on at least three occasions forwarding constituents' concerns about the closure of rural garda stations in Mayo.

• He sent 27 letters to the Department of Foreign Affairs on behalf of constituents in 2011, including nine on behalf of constituents looking for help in applying for passports.

• He sent 32 representations in relation to capital funding for schools in Mayo to the Education Department in 2011.

• A further 14 letters were sent to the Department of Agriculture in relation to farmers seeking CAP funding.

• He passed on 99 representation letters to the Department of Social Protection between 2010 and 2011.

A spokeswoman for Mr Kenny said: "The Taoiseach receives a large volume of correspondence from his constituency, which is forwarded by his office to the relevant departments for their attention."

The 'Sunday Independent' yesterday reported that Mr Kenny wrote to Mr Shatter on two occasions regarding the constituent's family law matter.

Mr Shatter denied the Taoiseach had asked him to intervene in a family law case. He said: "At no stage did the Taoiseach ask me 'to meddle in a family case'. He merely requested that I 'examine the points raised' in the constituent's letter and 'advise' him as to the appropriate reply."

He said the correspondence was "misrepresented as being a reference to a family law court case", and that the constituent in question "was neither an applicant nor a respondent in any such case".

Instead, the Taoiseach was referring to "an issue on family law" and said he himself made references to a "family law matter" and a "family dispute".

Mr Shatter said he referred to land registry records in his response to the Taoiseach and not "court registry records".

The Department of Justice confirmed the term "court registry records" appeared in a draft but was changed to "land registry letters" in his final response to the Taoiseach.

Outrageous

Mr Shatter denied he had "admonished the Taoiseach" and pointed out that in his response he had written that "I hope (his constituent) understands it would be entirely improper for a member of government to intervene in any way with land registry records".

He had not told the Taoiseach it would be "inappropriate" for "either me or him 'to comment on the case'".

Instead, he said: "I stated . . . in the letter that 'I am sure your constituent will understand that it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the family dispute that has arisen'."

'Sunday Independent' editor Anne Harris said that she rejected "the content and tone of the statement issued by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and would like to emphasise that both the Taoiseach and the minister were offered a full opportunity to comment last Friday".

Fianna Fail justice spokes-man Niall Collins said: "The decision of the Taoiseach to use his position to seek information on behalf of a constituent in a family law case constitutes an outrageous failure of judgment."

In a second statement, Mr Shatter re-iterated his earlier comments.

Irish Independent

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