Belfast Telegraph

Shatter launches counter-attack

Under fire Justice Minister Alan Shatter has tonight launched a broadside on one of the Garda whistleblowers at the centre of a raft of controversies beleaguering the force.

In a bullish counter-attack to stinging criticism of his role in the crisis, Mr Shatter also refused to distance himself from Garda chief Martin Callinan's depiction of the whistleblowers as "disgusting".

After a day of claims, counter-claims and sometimes emotional outbursts, the justice minister declared there would be uproar if any other serving garda had behaved in the manner of Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Sgt McCabe's allegations of rogue policing are behind a Government-ordered review headed up by a barrister, which could lead to a wider inquiry.

But Mr Shatter - who has been accused of publicly undermining Sgt McCabe's reputation - suggested widespread currency was given to number of incorrect allegations made by the Mullingar-based officer.

"He has conducted himself in a manner that if any other members of the force had so behaved would give rise to uproar in this House," he told the Dail.

"We now know that he secretly taped apparently a conversation with a senior officer and a transcript of that has been published... I would think there are concerns in this area."

Pressed to distance himself from Mr Callinan's remarks to a parliamentary committee that the whistleblower actions were disgusting, Mr Shatter said he did not know the context in which the remarks were made and had not read the transcript.

While he accepted it was important that whistleblowers are encouraged and protected, he hit back that it was equally important that allegations are substantiated through lawful measures.

Mr Shatter shrugged off claims he has an unhealthily close relationship with Mr Callinan.

In a robust defence of his handling of the fall-out, he denied he had cast aspersions on anyone's honour.

He also thought Sgt McCabe would have been interviewed by the internal inquiry team - under assistant commissioner John O'Mahony - about his allegations on the widespread wiping of penalty points for well-connected motorists.

"The understanding I have of the matter is that the investigation that took place was based on the totality of the information and the documentation he provided which included extracts from Pulse (Garda records system), which members of the investigation team themselves could access," he said.

"But I repeat my expectation was that he would be engaged and he would be interviewed."

Mr Shatter said there was different ways of interpreting why Sgt McCabe wasn't interviewed.

"Common sense suggests to me there may be fault on both sides," he added.

The most serious allegation by Sgt McCabe was that a court was not told a killer was on bail for a serious assault when he was charged over child abduction.

Claims also included falsification of records, sexual harassment of a female garda, victimisation, inadequate investigations of several alleged crimes and poor policing standards at Bailieboro station in Co Cavan, where Mr McCabe was previously stationed.

Mr Shatter said the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) examined files on the allegations but ordered no criminal action and that a number of gardai were disciplined over some of the cases.

All allegations - first sent to him on January 23 2012 - occurred in the 2007/2008 period and have been investigated both internally and through the Garda Ombudsman's office, he told TDs.

But Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin insisted there is no widespread faith that the allegations have been properly probed and claimed o nly the "most gullible" would believe Mr Shatter had given a fair and balanced picture of circumstances leading up to the controversies.

"This lingering resistance to an independent inquiry, with the powers to get to the bottom of all elements of the different cases, appears as strong as ever and it will not go away," Mr Martin said.

The Fianna Fail leader said attacking people was Mr Shatter's standard operating procedure and he again called on him to apologise for claiming Sgt McCabe did not co-operate with an internal Garda inquiry into the penalty points debacle.

"You just don't have it, do you minister?" he said.

"The humility to say sorry you got it wrong."

Mr Martin added: "I think your behaviour on this is appalling. It brings to mind the comments of your confidential recipient that if Shatter thinks you are screwing him he'll come after you."

Sgt McCabe had a basic entitlement to his good name, which had been undermined in the public domain, he said.

"He wants his name cleared, he doesn't want that slur hanging over him," Mr Martin added.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the ongoing controversies have exposed an unhealthy relationship between Mr Shatter and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

"On each occasion your first instinct has been to circle the wagons around the Commissioner and other senior gardai rather than get to the bottom of the matter without fear or favour," he said.

In an emotional outburst, Independent TD Mick Wallace, who has been central to bringing allegations of wrongdoing into the public domain, said political "games" in the Dail could lead to people losing their lives.

"Fine Gael used to pride itself on being the party of law and order. How in God's name can they still stand over that?" he said.

Rather than uncovering the truth, Mr Shatter's prime motive is political survival, the Wexford TD said.

"If you are going to stay in power and the commissioner is going to stay in place, then I think this parliament is a sham," he said.

"The people are right to be cynical about politics. They're right to be cynical about politicians - this place is a joke. We play games in here."

Mr Wallace added: "Sometimes these games lead to people losing their lives, lead to murders, lead to families not getting any justice."

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph