Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Ministers rally round Alan Shatter

Alan Shatter confirmed he was stopped at a garda checkpoint several years ago and failed to give a breath test blaming his asthma

Government ministers have rallied round embattled Justice Minister Alan Shatter insisting the issue of his failure to give a breath test at a Garda checkpoint is over.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan said his Fine Gael and cabinet colleague was the most reforming minister the Department of Justice has had "for a long time". Mr Noonan said: "It's the end of the matter as far as I'm concerned."

As the finance minister, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn and Health Minister James Reilly leapt to Mr Shatter's defence, Fianna Fail announced it is to table a motion of no confidence in him next week.

The opposition party has accused Mr Shatter of hypocrisy after he confirmed he was stopped at a garda checkpoint several years ago and failed to give a breath test blaming his asthma.

The minister, a TD at the time of the incident in late 2008 or early 2009, is also alleged to have told garda he was travelling home from the Dail.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath made the matter public and has since gone on to raise further concerns over Mr Shatter's attitude to gardai on duty at the checkpoint.

The controversy followed Mr Shatter's refusal to resign after revealing on television that Independent TD Mick Wallace had avoided prosecution for driving while using a mobile phone.

But Mr Noonan offered his colleague staunch defence. "I think he's a great minister. The most reforming minister we have had for a long time," he said.

Mr Noonan, who served as justice minister himself in the 1980s, defended Mr Shatter's relationship with Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan - the source of his information on Mr Wallace - and said it was important the pair maintain a good relationship.

"The Garda Commissioner under law is obliged to fully brief the Minister for Justice, so as part of the full briefing all sorts of things can come up in the conversation," he added.

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