THE Irish Justice Minister's belated apology to two police whistleblowers followed a staunch defence of his own handling of the phone taping scandal.
Garda John Wilson was forced to resign and is now awaiting biopsy results on bowel cancer tests, and serving Sergeant Maurice McCabe is working under supervision for accessing data to expose the penalty points issue.
Much debate yesterday centred on who knew what and when.
Minister Alan Shatter said he was only given a letter from Garda chief Martin Callinan about taped surveillance systems at police stations on Tuesday despite it being in his department for a fortnight.
Despite the letter to his department on March 10 about the existence of the recording system and follow-up high level meetings to discuss the fall-out, Mr Shatter said he was unaware of it as he was in Mexico for St Patrick's Day celebrations and only returned last Friday.
The beleaguered minister also said the matters under investigation far pre-dated his time in office and existed throughout the lifetime of previous governments.
"I was not briefed on this matter until approximately 6pm on Monday, March 24 in the Department of Justice and, as previously stated, was first furnished with the letter from the Garda Commissioner of March 10 yesterday at approximately 12.40pm," he said.
Questions have also been asked about the role of the Attorney General Maire Whelan, who was made aware of the tapes as far back as last November.
Mr Shatter said she had no knowledge at that time of the circumstances surrounding the making of tapes, the legal background to their being made, the contents of such tapes, or the number of such tapes.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he was only made aware of the taping system by the Attorney General on Sunday – but that she refused to discuss it with him over the telephone.
Both the Garda and the Department of Justice have been ordered to report back to the coalition Government on the sensational claims.