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Alan Shatter says €12 claim for passport photos is a 'totally false story'

The former justice minister is back in the news this week.

Alan Shatter
Alan Shatter
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated 7.47pm

ALAN SHATTER HAS criticised the media in the wake of what he says is a “totally false story” about a €12 expenses claim for passport photos when he was justice minister.

The Fine Gael TD took to Facebook last night to address a story which appeared on the frontpage of yesterday’s Irish Daily Star.

It claimed that he had made the claim for passport photos in October 2013 while serving as a cabinet minister on a salary of nearly €160,000.

“The allegation made was that when Minister for Justice and Defence I had made an expenses claim of €12 for photos I required for my personal passport. Of course, I did not,” Shatter said.

However, the paper hit back at what it called “abhorrent claims about its integrity”.

The Dublin South deputy said:

The true story is that in my role as Minister for Defence in November 2013 I undertook ministerial engagements in Lebanon, Jordan and Israel, which included visiting Irish troops engaged in a variety of UN missions and a refugee camp in Jordan accommodating many thousands of refugees from Syria. Arrangements for the visit required my obtaining inoculations and photos for a Lebanese visa. I was asked to furnish all relevant receipts to the Department of Defence and did so.

alan shatter the whole truth Source: Alan Shatter Facebook

He said the story had depicted him as a “dishonest money grabbing politician fleecing taxpayers by an indefensible expenses claim” and said it had been repeated across certain media and resulted in him being criticised by Fianna Fáil and Transparency International. He added:

I became the object of vile anti semitic comment. The story fitted neatly into centuries of anti Semitic caricature.

In a statement this evening, the Fine Gael senator Jim D’Arcy also said that some of the abuse Shatter had been subject to on Twitter was of an anti-semitic nature.

These comments, and there are many others in the same vain, fit in to stereotypical prejudices based on race and ethnicity, that unfortunately are too common with a small number of Irish people whenever issues concerning Alan Shatter in particular, arise.

The Louth-based senator said that Shatter’s expense claim was “totally legitimate” and “would be common practice among politicians of all parties”.

Criticising the media more generally, Shatter said while there are some “great journalists and broadcasters” the truth had become “an inconvenient irrelevance for some in the world of Irish news media”.

He continued: “Too often priority is given to speed, entertainment and sensationalism. If a story fits neatly into popular prejudice or a favoured media narrative all the better.

Taking time to check facts and presumptions can be perceived as obstacles to competing for print readers or ensuring online stories generate the required hits to maintain or increase advertising revenue .

“The media plays a vital role in our democracy but the relevance of that role will continue to diminish as standards deteriorate.

In their daily search for stories is there no time for journalists to recognise the enormous impact a totally inaccurate story can have on the lives of those affected by what they write or broadcast and recognise there is a responsibility to get it right?

He said that while high standards in public office are important it is also time for a discussion about standards in news reporting.

The Irish Times reports today that Shatter has asked his solicitors to take appropriate action.

Neither Shatter nor his office could be reached for comment this morning.

Abhorrent

The newspaper’s editor Des Gibson, however, struck back.

He called Shatter’s claims “abhorrent” and stood by the story.

We stand by this story. Mr Shatter himself, through legal representation, has confirmed that indeed the expenses claim for passport ID photographs was made and processed while he was Minister – but that the photos were used for a visa application and were a legitimate expense.

“The Star never alleged that the claim was illegal, yet simply stated a fact. Attempts were made to contact Mr Shatter prior to publication but failed.

“Since then Mr Shatter has taken to social media and legal letters to claim an anti semitic element to the news story. These are claims which The Star vehemently deny.

“There was no mention or insinuation of any religious element at any point in our article and we contend this was introduced to the argument by Mr Shatter and deflects from the original debate on the appropriateness of expenses claims in public office.”

Read: 7 reasons why Alan Shatter is like no other politician

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