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Opposition is incensed at waste of garda time in pursuit of Herald

LABOUR'S deputy leader Joan Burton today said a garda probe into the Herald over the Trevor Sargent leak was a serious affront to press freedom.

"This is a massive political misjudgment to devote resources on what appears to be a politically motivated move, to sort out any Government problems," she said.

"I would be very confident that the Evening Herald and the journalists would defend their rights to press freedom. I am fully confident that this issue will be addressed."

Ms Burton said that the investigation was a shocking waste of garda time and she was "quite taken aback".

"At a time when people are really worried about burglary and the spillover into gangland crime, it's unbelievable that the minister would devote really scarce garda resources.

"There are huge problems in gangland crime and the fact that Minister Ahern is devoting money to this issue is gob-smacking." She added that Labour intended to raise the issue in the Dail.

A spokesman for Mr Ahern said that the issue was a straightforward garda investigation and rejected claims that it was instigated by the minister.

"The only thing the minister has said is he plans (to) make the outcome of the investigation public," he said.

Editor Stephen Rae and reporters Conor Feehan, Kevin Doyle and Geraldine Gittens, have been told to make themselves available for interview.

Fine Gael's justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan meanwhile said Justice Minister Dermot Ahern appears to be suffering from an "obsessive disorder" in his probe into this newspaper.

The Justice Minister is driving a Garda inquiry into how the Herald received information which exposed the illegal activity of Green Minister Trevor Sargent.

The probe, set up by Commissioner Fachtna Murphy, has demanded interviews with Herald journalists.

Mr Flanagan said that it appeared the minister was on a "personal crusade" into finding the source of the letters which highlighted unlawful interference by ex-junior minister Mr Sargent.

"It would appear Minister Ahern is displaying some symptoms of obsessive disorder with regards this issue," he said.


"It appears as if he has undertaken a personal crusade and has lost focus. I would have thought the Minister for Justice might focus on the real issues in his department."

Gardai have demanded that the Herald hands over the documents that proved Sargent interfered with the course of justice.