Belfast Telegraph

Irish Minister of Justice Alan Shatter quits over critical probe into Garda misconduct

By Brian Hutton and Ed Carty

The Irish Republic is setting up a full-scale State inquiry into alleged police corruption after the Justice Minister Alan Shatter dramatically resigned over his role in the affair.

Mr Shatter, a veteran within the senior coalition partner Fine Gael, has stood down just weeks after the Garda chief Martin Callinan stunned the country with his resignation amid a storm of controversies involving his force.

Mr Shatter, who also serves as Defence Minister, told Taoiseach Enda Kenny he was offering to stand down after reading a Government-ordered report into the handling of whistleblower allegations of widespread Garda wrongdoing and malpractice. A dossier by serving Sergeant Maurice McCabe has rocked the force.

In a bid to calm growing tensions over a series of scandals, the Government asked a senior criminal barrister to examine 10 sample cases – including alleged murder, abduction and assault – which Sgt McCabe claims were not properly investigated. The report is to be published tomorrow but was handed to both Mr Kenny and Mr Shatter on Tuesday.

Announcing the resignation in the Dail, Mr Kenny said the report found Mr Shatter to be "inadequate" in his obligation to be independent in his investigation of the whistleblower allegations.

"The minister having read the report and considered its implications has sent me his resignation, which I have accepted with regret," he said.

The Government will now set up a full statutory inquiry – known as a Commission of Investigation – into the allegations.

In his resignation letter, Mr Shatter wrote: "I am anxious that any controversy that may arise on publication of the report does not distract from the important work of the Government or create any difficulties for the Fine Gael or Labour parties in the period leading in the European and local government elections. It is my judgment that the only way in which such controversy can be avoided is by my offering you my resignation."

However, Mr Shatter said he had only read three chapters of the report and agreed there should be a statutory inquiry.

It is the latest in a wave of top-level investigations into alleged Garda wrongdoing. Six weeks ago then Garda Commissioner Mr Callinan shocked even his closest colleagues when he resigned over the uncovering of a secret system recording telephone calls at police stations for decades.

A retired High Court judge is leading another independent investigation into the alleged bugging of the Dublin headquarters of the force's official watchdog, the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission.

Mr Shatter had previously shrugged off allegations of an unhealthily close relationship with Mr Callinan.

Cabinet colleagues stood by him on Tuesday when it was revealed he had breached data protection laws in revealing on live TV last year that political opponent Mick Wallace had been seen by police using his mobile phone while driving, although he was not prosecuted.

BACKGROUND

Garda Sgt Maurice McCabe first raised concerns over policing in Co Cavan after the vicious assault of a taxi driver in April 2007. Jerry McGrath was charged with a minor offence and released on bail.

Six months later he attempted to abduct a child, but was bailed after a court was not told of the earlier offence.

Five weeks later he had killed Sylvia Roche Kelly in a hotel in Limerick.

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