| 12.4°C Dublin

Shatter defiant as gardai claim he is soft on crime

JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter has said he's not "too excited" about claims by rank-and-file gardai that he is being soft on criminals.

The Minister was ambushed at the Garda Representatives Conference by accusations that he has done little or nothing during his first year in office.

Officers said they felt betrayed and angered by the minister's shortcomings.

But Mr Shatter said: "Let me tell you, sir, I am hard on crime, be it white-collar crime or any other sort of crime."

A rift between the Department of Justice and gardai has now been exposed after the minster said the GRA was being "alarmist and irresponsible".

"At conferences like this people sometimes use exaggerated language," he added. "I don't get too excited about these things."

He was responding to GRA president Damien McCarthy who said: "I conclude that your appointment has so far failed to have any significant impact on policing, you have achieved no more than your predecessors."

Mr McCarthy also criticised the justice system, which he said allowed criminals to walk free before completing sentences.

"In many cases we see lenient sentences reduced because of prison overcrowding, even when the lives of gardai have been cut short," he said.

The GRA president said the Fine Gael/Labour coalition had failed to establish itself as the government of law and order.

Turning again to Mr Shatter personally, he recalled remarks from the Justice Minister while in opposition warning about "lawless badlands" because of a lack of new garda recruits.

"Yet now you are prepared to abandon areas of the country to become lawless badlands by closing down garda stations," he added.