Wednesday 13 November 2019

Shatter set to be hauled in front of Dail's Justice Committee

Transport Minister turns the spotlight back on the Garda Commissioner, adding that he has full confidence in Alan Shatter

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar

Niall O'Connor and Louise Hogan

ALAN Shatter and senior officials in his department look set to be hauled in front of the Dail’s Justice Committee to answer questions on the ongoing garda controversies.

Committee chairman and Fine Gael TD David Stanton told that the issue will be discussed on Wednesday.

Mr Stanton today received a request from Independent TD Finian McGrath that Mr Shatter and the department’s Secretary General, Brian Purcell, be asked to appear in front of the committee.

Serious questions have been raised as to why it took a number of months before a critical letter written by former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan was forwarded to Mr Shatter.

The Justice Minister only received the letter at 12.40pm on Tuesday – three hours after Mr Callinan quit his post.

Speaking to this afternoon, Mr Stanton said there are “legitimate concerns” among members of the committee.

“This will be discussed during Wednesday’s meeting, following which a decision may be made to invite Mr Shatter and some of his officials to appear in front of the committee.”

It comes as Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said that he is concerned that the former Garda Commissioner knew of unlawful recordings as far back as November and did not tell the Minister for Justice at that point.

Mr Varadkar said an internal investigation was set up, rather than telling Minister Shatter as the former Commissioner should have done, adding that there had "even been inquiries about destroying the tapes."

Mr Varadkar said that this was much more of an issue if concern than anything else.

He said he has full confidence in Mr Shatter and that the "opposition had got it all wrong"

He said "instead of making political capital" and attacking Mr Shatter they should be asking why the gardai didn't inform the government earlier.

Mr Varadkar was speaking at an event to mark the removal of the €3 air travel tax from tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Education Ruairi Quinn has expressed surprise as to why it took so long for Mr Callinan's letter to be forwarded to Mr Shatter.

Mr Quinn said he was initially of the understanding that the letter had been addressed to his cabinet colleague, but that he has now been informed that he was in fact addressed to the Secretary General of the Department of Justice, Brian Purcell.

The critical letter, which was sent in November, detailed Mr Callinan's concerns about the garda tapes.

However, Mr Shatter said he did not see the letter until 12.40pm last Tuesday - three  hours after Mr Callinan's resignation from the force.

Speaking at an event in Dublin City this morning, Mr Quinn said he was "surprised" at the length of time that elapsed before the letter was given to Mr Shatter.

"It was addressed to the Secretary General, I understand it, first I heard the letter had been sent to the Minister," he said.

"I now understand from what I have been told that it was addressed to the Secretary General. I would find that unusual in my own experience," he added.

Mr Quinn repeatedly said he did not wish to comment on elements of the controversy until the full facts are known.

Meanwhile, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton has insisted he has "absolute confidence" in Mr Shatter.

"I think he is dealing with a legacy issue that he has inherited from the past, I think he is determined to deliver a quality system that we can stand over in terms of a strong oversight of our police force by a new garda authority, a strong Ombudsman service that is much stronger than the one in the past and a full access for whistleblowers.

"That is the legislative programme that he is delivering. So I have absolute confidence in him, I think he has handled this properly," said Mr Bruton.

Mr Bruton pointed out there were three important inquiries into the issues surrounding the garda tapes. He said the Commission of Investigation would look into how the tapes had occurred and how they may impact.

At the launch of the new Competition and Consumer Protection, Mr Bruton said the terms of reference of it would be decided in the coming days.

Further Reading

- Shatter: I hope the next justice minister is in the room

- Garda in Sophie case 'caught trying to bribe ex-soldier'

- Shatter opposed new watchdog for gardai as scandals unfolded

- Labour 'won't isolate Shatter' with FF's no confidence vote

- FF poll performance very disappointing – O Cuiv 

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