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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 23 December, 2014

AS IT HAPPENED: Shatter apologises to whistleblowers – ‘too little, too late’ says opposition

Alan Shatter has corrected the Dáil record regarding his earlier comments about the garda whistleblowers. FF and SF still want him to go.

Image: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Updated at 11.10pm

IT’S BEEN ANOTHER dramatic day at Leinster House. So much so that we can barely remember what happened yesterday.

No, hang on — that was pretty major too.

If you’re just joining us, the big news is that Justice Minister Alan Shatter has apologised to the two garda whistleblowers.

He’s corrected the record regarding his previous comments regarding the two men, and stated his wish that the Dáil now ‘move on’ from the affair.

Proceedings have now wrapped up. But here’s the blow by blow…

8.59 – Good morning! Welcome to TheJournal.ie‘s liveblog on all things GardaGate. It’s Sinéad O’Carroll here, kicking things off. Please feel free to send us your thoughts on yesterday’s events – Callinan’s resignation, the government’s sensational statement and what could possibly happen next? Write in the comments section, email or tweet. Maybe not a letter though – could take 15 days to arrive.

9.03 – The morning radio shows have been busy with guests talking about yesterday’s revelations. The government continues to send out spokespeople with various remits to talk on the issue.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney did the rounds on RTÉ and Newstalk, revealing that “we are where we are”.

He also noted that Alan Shatter is not “short of words”, adding that we will hear a lot from him today.

9.04 – Indeed, Alan Shatter kicks off proceedings in the Dáil this morning with a 15-minute statement at 10.45am.

Coveney told Morning Ireland that the Minister will answer questions as well but Micheál Martin claimed he was told there would be no opportunities for a Q&A.

9.09 – We asked in today’s poll if you think the Justice Minister should resign. The results so far?

9.10 – The likelihood of a resignation from Shatter today?

9.15 – During his radio interviews this morning, Agri Minister Simon Coveney revealed that the Attorney General Máire Whelan was not at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.

The AG has been aware of the garda station recordings and tapes for about four months.

Her non-attendance at Cabinet yesterday has raised questions.

9.28 – Do you need a recap of what went down yesterday? I’ll do my best to keep it brief:

  • Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan resigned/retired.
  • Deputy Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan becomes Acting Commissioner – and is the first woman in the history of the State to lead Ireland’s police force.
  • A Cabinet meeting was held – without the Attorney General.
  • The government revealed that gardaí have been recording, keeping and sometimes using telephone calls made to and from garda stations.
  • The government set up a Commission of Investigation to examine the above.
  • Alan Shatter stayed – mostly – silent.
  • People called on Shatter to quit. But the Taoiseach said, No.
  • Finance Minister Michael Noonan was sent out to bat for the government on Prime Time – a rare appearance on something other than his own portfolio.
  • It is revealed that a letter outlining details about garda recordings was sent to the Department of Justice on 10 March but was not seen by the Minister for another 15 days.

9.34 – All caught up? Following all of those extraordinary events yesterday, there have been more developments today.

RTÉ – which has seen the letter from Callinan to the Justice SecGen – says that conversations between gardaí and journalists, witnesses and other members of the force are among those that were recorded in stations across the country.

The government is worried about what implications the matter could have on legal proceedings.

Remember, these calls have been recorded since the 1990s.

9.38 – This isn’t the first time, though, that we’re hearing about recorded garda station calls.

As Micheál Martin pointed out on both Newstalk and Morning Ireland, TheJournal.ie reported on GSOC’s 2013 report which criticised a Waterford station’s practice of recording all incoming and outgoing calls.

The Ombudsman, at the time, noted that it was in breach of statutes governing such procedures.

On consideration of the ruling of the court the Garda Commissioner may wish to re-evaluate his practice regarding the recording of such calls and the consents required if it is to be permissible to use such recordings in evidence,” it said.

9.43 – Although that report, published in June 2013, was reported on by TheJournal.ie – it was not furnished to the Minister for Justice.

GSOC explained this morning that it would not have been sent to the Department, or Alan Shatter, as it was a report based on a complaint from a member of the public (Anthony Holness), and not a referral from the Minister.

However, the report was sent to the Garda Commissioner.

9.47 – Simon Coveney’s a busy lad today. After his media whip-around this morning, he’s back in the Dáil taking questions on his own portfolio.

@curtainqueen on Twitter says, “Jaysus. Simon Coveney might be wishing he’d rung in sick today.”

9.51 – According to a couple of Political Correspondents on Twitter, the Attorney General was not at yesterday’s Cabinet Meeting because she was attending her son’s Confirmation.

10.00 – Here’s more from Coveney’s interviews this morning, where he said some of the detail in the garda station tape recordings is “very explosive”.

Some of these tapes were requested under a discovery by the defence. And those tapes are in the process of being handed over to the defence lawyers. My understanding is that the contents of those tapes is very, very serious indeed in terms of the way in which that case was put together by the gardaí.

10.06 – Coveney also revealed the chain of events that led to the Commission of Investigation into the recordings.

After the request for the tapes by a legal team, the matter was brought to a head, he said.

The AG then went to the Taoiseach to notify him of the events and Enda Kenny took the matter “very seriously”.

His first port of call was to a Senior Counsel for advice on how to proceed. That was Sunday. Then, on Monday, he spoke to Alan Shatter.

The rest of the Cabinet were kept in the dark until Tuesday.

10.07 – Also from Coveney on Morning Ireland:

There are two separate issues here. The issue of the recordings in the first place – which were clearly unacceptable and probably illegal.

10.10 – A little interjection from our political editor Hugh O’Connell – who reports from a buzzing Leinster House:

Wednesday mornings are usually quiet as TDs arrive into Kildare Street, but already this morning several have been gathering in conclave to discuss the stunning developments of the past 24 hours.

One Fine Gael TD has told me that Shatter needs to give a full explanation to the Dáil of what and when he knew about the garda stations recording calls, and ‘do the right’ thing by apologising to the whistleblowers for saying they did not cooperate with the penalty points inquiry.

“No smugness,” they said.

If he doesn’t?

“Then he’s gone,” they added.

10.13 – Newstalk’s Páraic Gallagher has clarified an earlier report that the AG was at her son’s Confirmation – which was put out there by a government source – while Cabinet meeting was held.

He clarifies that Máire Whelan was at a private family event. She had offered her advice in advance of the meeting.

10.23 – If you fancy a sojourn into another #gate, RTÉ bosses are being grilled in Committee Room 4.

We presume the Saturday Night Show #pantigate affair will come up.

Watch it live here.

10.27 – As we wait patiently for things to kick off in the Dáil, let’s take a look at what Michael D got up to yesterday, shall we?

Yes, that’s our President taking out some cash at an ATM on Baggot Street.

(Image: @AwningsIreland)

10.35 – #GardaGate has gone global.

Agencé France Press (AFP), BBC News, The Financial Times, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune and Bloomberg all have something to say on the issue.

10.45 – A press statement from the Government Press Office just in:

The Attorney General attended a private family event yesterday. She was absent from the Cabinet meeting with the prior consent of the Taoiseach.

10.48 – We’re now moving on in the Dáil to the juicy stuff.

Watch Alan Shatter live here.

10.49 – Firstly, Alan Shatter pays tribute to Martin Callinan and thanks him for his “commitment and service to the State”.

10.50 – The fact that a system was in place – and for so long – is concerning.

He says there are a lot of unclear elements about the call recordings.

He notes he is constrained on what he can say and that it is “wrong to engage in speculation”.

10.51 – Shatter repeats line that he cannot speak about the specific proceedings that sparked the events of the past two weeks because of ongoing legal proceedings.

10.53 – Callinan’s letter outlined how recording systems were set up in the 1980s – the rationale was for the recording of emergency calls and other operations.

The original recorders were replaced in the 1990s with dictaphones. And then NICE recorders – a brand name – were installed in 2008, Callinan said in the letter.

27 November 2013 was the last day that garda station calls were recorded.

10.56 – Shatter says that the day after receipt of letter on 10 March there was meeting between Garda Commissioner, Justice Department officials and AG officials.

He confirms he was not briefed on the matter until the 24 March and did not receive the letter until yesterday.

10.59 – Shatter says that GSOC’s report did not reference the widespread recording of calls – rather an incidence of it at one garda station.

He also confirms that there was no obligation on GSOC to furnish the report to him.

He accuses Opposition TDs of “contrived outrage” on the issue.

“GSOC did not regard it of sufficient importance to furnish it to me,” he adds, noting that there was no PQ tabled by any member on the issue.

It may be the case that no member read it – or placed importance on it.

11.00 – Shatter also says he is open to correction that no member of the media reported on the taped calls at that Waterford station.

CORRECTION ALAN!

We had it here:

Gardaí did not cooperate with watchdog investigation…again

This isn’t the first time illegal recording of Garda station calls has been noted…

11.02 – There will be an Open Competition for the Garda Commissioner position, announces Shatter.

So Acting Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan will have to be put through her paces if she’s to get the nod.

11.02 – Shatter says he will not make any accusations that any previous Minister for Justice knew about the recording of phone calls.

That got a few whoops and yells from the house.

11.03 – And that’s it from Shatter for the moment. We’ll hopefully have the statement in full for you soon.

Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins now gets his opportunity to stick it to the Minister.

He doesn’t hold back – calls Shatter incompetent and starts a recap of his Ministry, from penalty points to phone calls.

11.06 – Niall Collins asks Shatter, “Who haven’t you fought with?”

Exasperation in his voice.

11.07 – Here’s Alan Shatter’s statement in full. Read away to your heart’s content there.

Meanwhile, Collins says that people aren’t blaming Shatter for what has been done – but they are blaming him for his inaction.

11.13 – Niall Collins points out that it is strange that former Commissioner Martin Callinan gave Shatter information about Mick Wallace being stopped in his car – but not about the potential ramifications of gardaí recording all phone calls in and out of a large number of stations.

Ponder that.

11.16 – Fianna Fáil confirms that it never called for the resignation of Martin Callinan. Collins thanks and acknowledges his work – and the work of rank and file gardaí.

11.18

It is not credible – and it is time you should leave the Ministry for Justice.

That’s Niall Collins’s last message for Alan Shatter.

Next up – Sinn Féin’s Pádraig MacLochlainn.

11.20 – MacLochlainn says it is remarkable that not one person in the vast Department of Justice, where “an army of staff is available”, is not responsible for monitoring reports from GSOC.

“It is remarkable,” he repeats.

11.24 – So, no resignation from Shatter? No surprises there.

Your thoughts?

11.26 – We’ll just leave this here.

Thanks @anniewestdotcom

11.27 – MacLochlainn is still giving it to Shatter.

He calls him out on having a dysfunctional relationship with the former Commissioner and accuses him of politicising the force.

He says it is a mistake by the Taoiseach not to ask for Shatter’s resignation and adds:

Take the right decision – like your friend Martin Callinan – and resign.

11.30 – Here’s more from Hugh O’Connell at Leinster House:

“Alan Shatter’s statement provides very little detail that we didn’t already know through various reports over the last 24 hours. It does set out a timeline of sorts but several questions arise.

The Minister told the Dáil that it was “unfortunate” that he did not receive Callinan’s letter detailing the recordings issue until 12.40pm yesterday and read it sometime later in the day.

He said that while the Attorney General was informed of recordings in relation to a civil case last November, she had no knowledge about the background, the content of the tapes or the numbers of tapes.

On the GSOC report last June, Shatter said that it was “the simple truth” that GSOC did not furnish the report to him or his department when it was published last June.

“Insofar as it received any media coverage, it does not appear as if any member of the media regarded the report as of any major importance,” he said of the reports from TheJournal.ie and the Irish Examiner at the time.

So, we are to believe that Shatter did not read those media reports and that effectively no official in his department was aware of that GSOC report or its contents or indeed had read the reports in the media.”

11.31

The Confidential Recipient has walked the plank. The Commissioner has walked the plank. And now it is time for you to walk the plank…so we can start to rebuild a modern police service for the times we live in.

And that’s the last of it from MacLochlainn.

Here comes Mick Wallace.

11.32

11.33 – As Wallace continues to speak, Today FM’s Gav Reilly notes that there are two Labour ministers on the Dáil front bench – Ruairi Quinn and Pat Rabbitte – alongside Shatter, Simon Coveney and Pat Rabbitte.

11.35 – “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, seems to be the order of the day,” according to Wallace.

He also says that Minister Shatter should go.

Next up, Clare Daly.

The Technical Group are sharing time – which is why their speeches are shorter than Collins’s and MacLochlainn’s.

11.39 – Joe Higgins says Shatter should have been sent to Croagh Patrick on 17 March – and not Mexico – to see if he could be cured of his arrogance.

“This Minister is history,” he adds.

Higgins also points to the “cowardice of the Labour party”.

“They have swallowed all the principles they claim to have.”

11.40 – Daly is angry. Really angry.

“To mishandle one case might be unfortunate…to mishandle five, six, seven serious scenarios means it is time for you to go.”

She adds that Shatter’s attempt to normalise this crisis has a “shamefully familiar ring to it”.

She also points out that it is not credible that Shatter was angry with GSOC for not telling him about the bugging worries but is fine with them not furnishing him with last June’s report.

11.42 – Could someone get Shane Ross a glass of water?

He’s having some croaky issues as he gives his tuppence.

11.44 – Shane Ross believes the AG is “being hung out to dry” by the government because Shatter said in his statement that she knew about the tapes last November.

Wait and you’ll see, she’s next in the firing line.

11.45 – Turn down the volume, lads. Richard Boyd-Barrett is up now.

And he’s angry. And finger pointing.

11.49 – RBB says that the two TDs who brought up the initial allegations about An Garda Síochána were impugned in the most sinister of ways. He is referring to Clare Daly and Mick Wallace.

RBB brings up the Cynthia Owen case – and asks about the garda handling of the case.

11.49 – Minister says he is going to be very brief in his reply.

“It is interesting to hear what Deputies have to say,” he begins.

“I think it is unfortunate that some of the events that have arisen have occurred.”

He notes that gardaí have seen a dramatic reduction in the level of crime in recent times and accuses Opposition of never saying anything positive about gardaí.

11.52 – “I have set out what I know,” he says.

“The fact that there are tapes going back over many years is serious.”

“Yes there are serious issues that arise,” he continued, before noting that Niall Collins “studiously avoided raising an issues” that may have arose prior to 2011.

“I’m not interested in making party politics out of this,” he add, however.

11.54 – Shatter accuses Opposition TDs of making matters of Justice that come into the house into ones about personality.

He bemoans the lack of discussion about the “real concerns out of recordings” – the privacy of citizens; the administration of the justice system; civil and criminal actions pending or already heard.

“The reason we need an inquiry, is to get a full insight into the background circumstances; the purpose if any they were used; the manner in which they were storied; Data Protection Issues….

“As soon as the full details of this issue came to mine and the Taoiseach’s notice, we believed the government and House should be informed and action taken.

“But seemingly you are damned for what you do and damned for what you don’t do.”

11.57 – Minister Frances Fitzgerald gives a sharp ‘ssshhhhh’ there to one of her colleagues.

Scary Irish Mammy-like.

11.57 – “Who in their right mind would want another controversy related to An Garda Síochána,” Shatter asks, referring to some commentary that the government chose yesterday to reveal the details of the call recordings.

“What benefit could there be to anyone?” he continues.

11.58 – Shatter says that’s all he can deal with for now (you and I both, Alan) but that he’ll be back later to talk about the whistleblower controversy.

How does he keep up?

12.02 – We get a two minute recess before Leaders’ Questions begins.

Y’all alright out there?

12.07 – Micheál Martin gets the first question in. He asks why the Attorney General did not tell the Minister for Justice about the taped garda calls? And why did she only tell the Taoiseach on Sunday – when she had the information for months?

Enda Kenny said he attended an occasion in Dublin on Sunday. In the morning, he called the AG and she indicated that there was another matter that the Taoiseach should be aware of.

Máire Whelan was not prepared to talk about the issue on the telephone, he says.

[Bursts of laughter from the Chamber]

“Well you may laugh,” says Kenny, stone-faced. “If you were appraised of the matter, you would not.”

12.11 – Taoiseach says that GSOC report referred to one case of taped calls in Waterford – and not the trawl of over 2,500 tapes and the 2013 ones of a digital nature that were revealed yesterday.

Enda Kenny is scathing about TDs laughing about the matter.

12.12 – The Taoiseach apologised to Catherine Murphy for not including her in yesterday’s briefing with opposition leaders on garda call recordings.

12.13 – The Taoiseach also confirmed that a civil servant spoke to Garda Commissioner so that Callinan be made aware of the “gravity of how I felt about this”.

12.14 – Martin believes that last point about the civil servant is significant. He notes that Kenny excluded that fact from the briefing.

He says: “Calling a spade a spade: you essentially sacked him (Callinan).”

12.15 – Kenny on Martin’s claim that Callinan was essentially sacked:

It’s the first time you’ve accused me of being a liar in here. And of using some perception of authority to remove people from office.

I deplore what you are suggesting absolutely.

12.19 – “Was I to come here this week and say everything is fine and rosy in the garden?” adds Kenny.

“That Minister Shatter and Minister Varadkar…have sorted out their problem?

The Taoiseach is not happy – at all – with Martin’s line of questioning and statements.

It is actually beneath you to come in and attempt to say something like that.

He went total school teacher there.

12.21 – Another numbered fact from our Gav Reilly:

12.22 – Enda Kenny, again, highlights the gravity of this situation.

He says the transcripts of a small number of tapes (he does not know what they all hold) have “the most serious implications” for a number of legal cases.

12.24 – Fine Gael is really hammering home its message:

12.26 – Taoiseach says that gardaí did not do enough to engage with whistleblowers.

“I expect the Minister (Shatter) to deal with that when he comes back later today.”

12.34 – Stephen Donnelly asks for the Taoiseach to put gardaí ahead of his personal loyalty to Shatter and ask him to set aside.

Kenny’s retort: I’ll put the interests of the citizens of the country at the forefront.

12.36 – A bit of a summary from our Political Editor Hugh O’Connell at Leinster House…

It is significant that the Taoiseach has acknowledged that having read back over the O’Mahoney report into penalty points the gardaí “did not do enough” to engage with the whistleblowers.

He said he expects Shatter to address this matter this afternoon. There is now an expectation here that the Minister for Justice will issue some sort of apology for the way the whistleblowers were treated but the wording, extent and nature of that are not yet clear.

Enda Kenny also confirmed this afternoon that a civil servant spoke to the Garda Commissioner on Monday, prior to his resignation, so as that Martin Callinan was made aware of the “gravity of how I felt about this”.

Martin said this meant Callinan was “essentially sacked”. Kenny did not agree.

Interestingly we also learned that Kenny was informed by the Attorney General of the issues surrounding garda recordings on Sunday but only after she requested to meet in person in a telephone call.

The AG was not prepared to discuss these matters over the telephone, Kenny said with a straight face to bursts of laughter from TDs.

12.38 – Another quote from Kenny on the whistleblower issue, which will be debated – at length – in the Dáil later this afternoon.

“My job as head of Government is to see that we do the right thing and I want to see that whistleblowers are protected.”

12.40 – Stephen Donnelly is trying the softly, softly approach with Enda Kenny.

Is Minister Shatter still the best member of your party to drive the work of reforming Ireland’s police?, he asks.

“I believe, regrettably, that he no longer is.”

Kenny’s not biting though.

12.46 – Wrapping up Leaders’ Questions, Enda Kenny continues to stand by his man, Alan Shatter.

“He’s never been afraid to deal with what’s been hiding under many carpets for years,” adding that he has courage to stand up to vested interests and deal with the truth.

“I will stand by that on any platform.”

12.46 – A note from an avid viewer and reader:

Stephen Donnelly said public confidence in the gardaí had been shattered, apparently, given his demeanour, with no pun intended. Lolz.”

12.51 – Micheál Martin has asked for more time to ask questions about the garda recordings.

He wants to know if there is a report from the Senior Counsel who the Taoiseach met on Sunday night.

Ceann Comhairle is having none of it though – he wants to stick to the Order of Business, which we’ve now moved on to.

Enda Kenny says that there is no more time given to the issue right now as there aren’t enough facts established.

“You have to be in a position to give answers to questions,” he told Deputy Martin. “It will not be the last time we turn to this, believe you me.”

13.00 – During the spillover to the Order of Business, Kenny said the senior civil servant who approached Callinan on Monday was the Sec Gen of Dept of Justice.

At that point, he still hadn’t given the letter directly to the Minister.

13.01 – Well, what have we learned over the past two hours or so?

  • The Taoiseach believes enough wasn’t done by gardaí to engage with whistleblowers.
  • An apology – from Minister Alan Shatter to the whistleblowers – could be imminent this afternoon.
  • Enda Kenny is standing firmly beside the Justice Minister – not a hint of criticism from him about Shatter’s handling of the various controversies.
  • The Taoiseach confirmed that a Civil Servant – namely the SecGen of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell – spoke to the Garda Commissioner on Monday, prior to his resignation, about the taped calls.
  • However, he vigorously denied accusations from Micheál Martin that Callinan was pushed/sacked.
  • The Attorney General was not willing to talk to the Taoiseach about GardaGate over the telephone.
  • Worryingly, transcripts from some of the garda tapes have “the most serious implications” for a number of legal cases.
  • Alan Shatter says he saw the 10 March letter for the first time at 12.40pm yesterday – but his Department knew about it a week ago.
  • The Attorney General knew about the tapes in November.

13.10 – That’s all from me for now. Susan Daly will take over to bring you more from the Dáil chamber.

Could that long-awaited apology be forthcoming?

13.13 – Hello all, Susan Daly here, NOT calling in from either landline or mobile.

13.14 – Our Political Editor Hugh O’Connell has some extra details for you from Leinster House to digest with your lunch:

Earlier, the Justice Minister Alan Shatter revealed some detail about the recording system used by the gardaí saying that the original recorders were replaced by dictaphone recorders in the 90s and further replaced by “NICE recorders, which I understand is a brand name”.

The Labour TD Kevin Humphreys has discovered that the minister was most likely referring to NICE Systems Limited – an Israeli-based company which specialises in telephone voice recording, data security and surveillance as well as systems that analyse this recorded data.

We’re looking into this and will bring you more details when we can.

13.19 – Well, here’s a doozy from the Green Party just now: Garda tender for recording devices for 21 locations around the country….

You can see that full tender here.

Now that’s not to say that those digital recording systems (so let’s stop saying ‘tapes’ shall we?) were used in the controversial circumstances outlined since yesterday.

But that is rather a lot of apparatus.

13.26 – What happened in 2008? There was a change to recording equipment in the gardai at that time.

From our report from the Dáil at Leaders’ Questions today, this salient line:

He [Enda Kenny] added that there were more than 2,500 such tapes up to 2008, with digital archives of tapes being collected from 2008 until the tapping process was stopped in November of last year.

13.29 – Meanwhile, RTÉ Radio One’s News at One is reporting that a court case in the Central Criminal Court has been adjourned because of the revelations around recording of calls to and from Garda stations.

13.32 – By the way, if you are wondering if anything else is happening this morning, check out our handy Lunchtime Fix.

With bonus retro lunchbox lid:

Image: jeffisageek/Flickr

13.35 – Martin Callinan will be okay.

13.38 – Little recap for you in this concise article by our reporter Orla Ryan:

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, speaking at Leaders’ Questions a little earlier was not happy with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin’s suggestion that he ‘sacked’ Commissioner Martin Callinan.

Kenny said that the suggestion implied he was lying about Callinan’s exit, and the extent to which it was voluntary.

However, Kenny did say that gardai “did not do enough” to engage with whistleblowers.

13.42 – And from one of the esteemed members of the Seanad. Oh.

13.51 – Now Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty is attempting to prick Fianna Fail’s balloon with this timely reminder:

Maire Geogheghan Quinn, we presume?

14.05 – We’ve just taken a look at the latest voting on our poll: Should Alan Shatter resign?

In the last five hours, over 7,500 of you have voted, and there is a very clear split…

14.16 – More on the trial which has been disrupted by the Garda station recordings revelations.

The trial of Thomas McMahon, 31, and Noel Noonan, 34, was to start at the Central Criminal Court today – they were accused on IRA membership.

However, there is now some question from the men’s defence counsel as to whether consultations they held over the phone with their solicitors while they were in custody were recorded.

The trial is adjourned until tomorrow – the prosecution said they can’t possibly know.

Interesting to see if this is going to be the only trial to hit a bump on this issue.

14.32 – According to the Irish Daily Mail’s Jennifer Bray on Twitter, the Minister for Health James Reilly has expressed confidence in both Minister Shatter and the Attorney General today.

He was speaking at a meeting of the Irish Kidney Association.

14.37 – And next in line to pledge allegiance to Shatter is….

Niall Carson/PA Archive/Press Association Images

14.41 – This is Sinéad O’Carroll back with you by the way.

I’ve been fed and watered, ready to keep you updated on all things #GardaGate.

14.48 – Hugh O’Connell, our political editor, reports from a doorstep with Leo Varadkar.

The Transport Minister says he has absolute confidence in his party colleague. He also described developments in #GardaGate as confusing.

We’ll have a video of all that shortly.

14.56 – Reader Stephen Devine sent us a link to this website: Is Shatter Gone Yet

You know what’s coming, right?

15.02 – As promised:


(YouTube: Hugh O’Connell/TheJournal.ie)

15.02 – If you can’t watch the Varadkar video just now, here’s a quick transcript:

The Cabinet and most Ministers only became aware of most of these things in the past couple of days. So, I think, we still need to absorb all that information. I have difficulty getting my head around it at the moment…

The Taoiseach acted very quickly to establish a Commission of Inquiry to examine all of the matters related to the taping of conversations at garda stations.

In addition to that, we all know there’s a big job to be done in reforming the gardaí and the way they are overseen by civilians. That’s why we decided to establish a Garda authority. That’s a big change.

But I do think in the meantime, really everyone in the country needs to continue to show support and respect for rank-and-file gardaí on the ground who are the ones that protect us.

They have done absolutely nothing wrong and not in any way to blame for this. It is very important that we say that in government and people get that message.

15.05

So, just a few more minutes to go before the Dáil – and Alan Shatter – return. Excited?

Daragh Brophy is going to bring you all the action. Enjoy….

15.11 – Thanks Sinead, take the rest of the day off.*

Daragh Brophy taking over on the desk here. It’s been a hectic morning, and it’s not looking like the rest of the afternoon will be any less action-packed.

No 3pm slumps for anyone taking even a passing interest in the goings on at Leinster House…

[natashastander.wordpress.com]

*That won’t be happening…

15.18 – In case you’re just joining us and wondering what we’re all doing here, by the way — here’s what’s up next on the schedule of the Dáil…

Statements on the Garda Inspectorate Report on the Fixed Charge Processing System (to conclude at 9.30 pm tonight, if not previously concluded)
(Department of Justice and Equality)

Alan Shatter’s expected on his feet later this afternoon after the chamber addresses a few other Topical Issues.

It comes after Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil earlier that the Gardaí “did not do enough” to engage with whistleblowers.

Kenny said he came to that conclusion after he “went back and read the documentation” relating to the O’Mahony Report following recent events.

He said that the embattled Shatter would be looking into this, among other issues. (Kenny didn’t use the word ‘embattled’ himself, by the way. But if ever a Minister was embattled…)

Here’s our report on the Taoiseach’s comments earlier…

15.22 – Interesting report just went live on Highland Radio’s website…

According to the Donegal local broadcaster:

Letterkenny Garda station was one of 27 stations for which Gardaí, in 2007, sought a system to automatically record telephone calls and radio traffic from Garda communications system.

The system, which included hard drives to store recordings of communications, allowed Gardai with certain credentials to log in from remote locations and listen to calls recorded at local stations.

It’s believed the Gardaí paid just over half a million euro for the system.

[Google Streetview]

15.25We’re back….

[Oireachtas.ie]

(Obviously not much happening yet… But the live feed is back)

15.34 – We’re back (properly).

The Dáil’s addressing a few other Topical issues first though.

First up, Labour’s Ann Phelan on the issue of AIB debt write downs…

[Oireachtas.ie]

Here’s what else the Dáil will be discussing before we hear from Minister Shatter:…

15.46On to the next Topical issue now…

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Significantly fewer TDs in the chamber compared to the height of this morning’s drama…

15.57 – Independent TD Shane Ross was, as usual, very vocal in the Dáil this morning…

He’s looking for answers to these questions too — following today’s revelations about the timeline of the GardaGate revelations, and when Minister Shatter became fully aware of the situation.

[Shane Ross via Twitter]

16.03 – Quick aside for a shoutout to my home town…

The issue of broadband problems in the estates of Bettyglen and Maywood in Raheny is being discussed at the moment (lucky I didn’t work from home today).

Answering Terence Flanagan’s question, Pat Rabbitte just said that the northside of Dublin was “in many ways, a state of mind” (okay…).

“I hadn’t been aware the question would be about Bettyglen and Maywood and some parts of Howth where Gay Byrne likes to go for a walk,” the Minister said.

He said he’d look into it though. Which is nice.

[Oireachtas.ie]

16.06Back to the matter at hand…

Latest official word was that Alan Shatter was due in the chamber at 4.10pm.

We’ve one more topical issue to go though, so it’ll probably be closer to 4.20.



(Youtube: richorico)

16.16News from RTÉ…

* Please be advised Prime Time – The Ambulance Service Uncovered has now been rescheduled to tomorrow night **

Thursday at 9.35pm on RTÉ One

Tonight’s Prime Time programme will now feature the latest news and reaction on the ongoing justice and policing crisis.

The national broadcaster initially broke the story of delays in ambulance arrival times yesterday, but it was quickly overtaken by yesterday’s events.

Given everything that’s been happening today, the full documentary may well end up getting pushed back to next week…

Busy week for Miriam…

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16.17Minister Shatter is now on his feet…..

16.20 – As expected, he’s revisiting his comments about the whistleblowers and whether or not they cooperated with an internal garda investigation into the penalty points issue:

Having re-examined the facts, and further considered the matter I believe more should have been done during the course of the O’Mahoney investigation to obtain information from and ascertain the views and experiences of the whistleblowers.

16.21 – Shatter:

I wish to correct the record of this house that the whistleblowers ‘did not cooperate with the Garda investigations that took place’.

16.22 – Shatter:

“I believe it is appropriate that I apologise to both and withdraw the statements made”.

16.23 – Alan Shatter said he had no intention to “cause any upset” and hoped his statement to the Dáil today would put the matter to rest.

16.35 – Shatter told the Dáil that how “further new claims” raised by the whistleblowers “subsequent to the O’Mahoney investigation resulted in me referring all of these matters to GSOC for their consideration”.

“I want to be careful not to say anything today that could prejudice the investigation being undertaken by GSOC.

He said the “most serious allegation so far being made” related to what were described as “shocking criminality by several garda officers” and “serious fraud and corruption within An Garda Siochána”.

16.37 – He said it was crucial that the recommendations of the Garda Inspectorate report into penalty points be implemented.

16.38 – By the way, you can read Shatter’s apology in full here.

16.39 – And you can watch his continuing statement to the Dáil on the issue here >

[Oireachtas.ie]

16.46 – Continuing his address, Shatter has been speaking of a wider review of the force being carried out by the Garda Inspectorate as part of the terms of the Haddington Road Agreement.

He said that review “will provide important insights of any further changes needed of a statutory or non-statutory nature” within the gardaí.

Shatter said it was important “not to pre-judge the work” being done.

He finished his statement by saying he hoped we could “move on from present controversy”….

16.48Niall Collins TD on his feet now, responding to the minister…

16.50 – The FF TD has asked the Minister to comment on a newspaper interview with Robert Olsen, in which the Garda Inspectorate chief inspector said he had never met Minister Shatter.

16.51 – Collins has said Shatter’s apology today was a “last ditch effort to save face and save your own skin”.

He’s described the Minister’s words today as too little too late, and said that despite the sentiment, Shatter had still sought to “subcontract some of the blame”.

16.53From a reader, passing by Leinster House in the last few minutes…

[Ryan Kielty]

16.55 – Finishing his allotted time, Collins has asked a question regarding future recruitment plans within An Garda Siochána.

He’s asked whether interviews recently carried out by the departing Commissioner for various senior roles will still stand, or whether the process would start afresh.

16.58 – FF’s Dara Calleary on his feet now.

He’s accused the minister of trying his very best to ignore the penalty points allegations since coming to office, and said he had had to be dragged “kicking and screaming” into the chamber today.

Your wish to ‘move on’ cannot be respected.

[Oireachtas.ie]

17.00Calleary:

“It’s your style that’s at question here”.

Really?

[Photocall Ireland]

17.01 – Seriously though.

Calleary again…

“Minister I regret to say — while you’re still there, there can be no change.”

17.02FF TD and PAC chairman John McGuinness up next…

17.05 – McGuinness has asked the Minister if he ever met with the two whistleblowers, and asked if he understood why the two gardaí “were so upset” at the penalty points system that they felt compelled to come forward with their concerns.

What we’re questioning here is the culture that condemned those two men as soon as they opened their mouths.

17.09 – John McGuinness has again raised the case of a female garda, who he says was pursuing a claim of sexual harassment within the force, and was warned off from doing so by the Garda Confidential Recipient.

Here’s our report on the issue from last month…

17.10 – He’s asked Shatter whether he’s looked into the ‘Navan’ affair and whether he intends to apologise to the woman in question.

17.11 – The Ceann Comhairle’s just given McGuinness a wrap on the knuckles for addressing remarks to Minister Frances Fitzgerald, and told him to address the relevant minister.

17.12 – McGuinness finishes by asking if Shatter will meet with the two whistleblowers and a number of other people who he says had their cases mishandled.

17.14 – A heated argument breaking out now between McGuinness and Shatter, after Shatter asked the FF TD to go back and look again at his own documentation concerning the ‘Navan’ case.

17.14 – … Didn’t last long.

17.15Up next, SF justice spokesperson Padraig MacLochlainn…

17.16 – He’s revisiting the timeline of how the two whistleblowers brought their concerns to the authorities, and eventually ended up approaching TDs.

17.18 – By the way, people are wondering what Shatter meant when he told McGuinness to go back and look at his files on the ‘Navan’ case.

Including Today FM’s Political Correspondent:

17.21 – First mention of the afternoon of Callinan’s ‘disgusting’ remarks, as the SF spokesman continues his timeline of the penalty points debacle.

17.22 – Padraig MacLochlainn has welcomed this afternoon’s apology to John Wilson and Maurice McCabe, but says it’s a shame “it’s to save your own hide”.

He says the apology wasn’t enough, and that Shatter should still resign.

17.27 – MacLochlainn’s now revisiting the timeline of the GSOC controversy.

Brings home quite how busy a year it’s been to date for the Justice Minister.

We’re now around an hour and a half into this afternoon’s discussions on the penalty points saga.

Time for a coffee, maybe?

17.28 – The SF TD just said Shatter’s recent behaviour has been “remarkable”. Nice to see the embattled Minister get some praise at last.

17.30Mary Lou McDonald up now…


17.32 – Regarding the whistleblowers, McDonald says there was a deliberate decision made within the gardaí to try and “shut these two men down”.

17.33 – McDonald says the two men were clearly ‘vindicated’ and that this has been proven by two of the reports into the matter.

17.38 – McDonald:

You compounded the wrongs revisited on them… You questioned their personal and professional credibility.

The SF deputy leader says that Shatter had made his apology today “under more pressure than grace” and accuses the Minister of misleading the house in his earlier statement about the whistleblowers.

This leads to an intervention from the chair, and a contention that members can’t allege another TD deliberately misled the chamber…

17.40 – McDonald accuses Shatter of making a ‘lukewarm’ apology today, and says:

I don’t think you have any appetite for accountability yourself.

Says if he did, he’d be stepping down from his role…

Minister Shatter, you have no credibility in your portfolio.

17.43 – McDonald having a look back at the Dáil transcript of Shatter’s statement as she reads back his quotes about ‘moving on’ from the current affair.

She doesn’t look happy at the contents…

17.44Clare Daly will be having a word with the Minister in a second, but first — Mick Wallace…

17.46 – Wallace is also revisiting the timeline of the penalty points controversy, in thirty specific points…

He’s up to 23 already.

17.49Wallace:

The fish rots from the head and the rot starts with you Minister.

At least. I’m pretty sure that’s what he said. Is that a phrase?

17.51Apparently it is…

[Brainstorming.org]


17.52Time for the Daly show…

17.56 – The ULA TD says Shatter is now cutting ‘a lonely figure’ in the Dáil this evening (most of his fellow Government TDs have now left the chamber).

Daly tells Shatter that “the only reason these issues are under public scrutiny” is because of the whistleblowers “and their dogged determination”. Of today’s comments…

I would classify your remarks as a sort of mealy-mouthed recognition of the two men.

17.57 – Daly says the two whistleblowers had been ostracised by their colleagues for bringing up the issue.

18.01 – Now she’s bringing up the question of car-parking outside Pearse Street Station in Dublin — says gardaí haven’t been getting clamped in the area, as there’s an understanding that the vehicles in question belong to members of the force.

[Geograph]

18.04Next to nobody left in the Dáil now as Daly finishes up and Joe Higgins takes to his feet…

18.13As we pass the 6pm mark, may be time for a quick refresher on the afternoon’s events so far…

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  • Justice Minister Alan Shatter has apologised to the garda whistleblowers
  • He said “it was never my intention to cause any upset”
  • He has corrected the record of the Dáil in relation to his earlier comments about them
  • Shatter also said it was time to ‘move on’ from the recent controversy
  • FF and SF have both said he still needs to resign
  • Members of the Technical Group have backed calls for him to go
  • Earlier, a raft of ministers expressed their full confidence in him

18.15Following contributions from Higgins and Joan Collins, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar now on his feet…

18.25 – On the subject of the revelations about taped phonecalls to garda stations, Varadkar says the Government acted quickly yesterday in setting up a Commission of Investigation into the affair.

“We did act quickly.” Varadkar says.

This is not a Government that sweeps things under the carpet… If I have anything to do with it, I’ll make sure that s the case.

18.29 – On the subject of the Garda Inspectorate Report into penalty points (that’s the official subject under discussion in this session by the way) Varadkar says…

The Inspectorate Report pulled no punches. It found “inconsistent and widespread breaches of the Fixed Charge Processing System policy by those charged with administering it, and found no meaningful evidence of consistent quality management supervision, no training and no clear policy guidelines on its implementation”.

The Inspectorate also found “no auditing of the cancellation process of fixed charge notices either at Garda Headquarters, Regional, Divisional and District or at any level that would have identified these problems”.

The Working Group will now ensure that all of the recommendations in the Report are implemented in the fastest possible timeframe. All of the key agencies involved are members of the Group and they will work together to bring about improvements in the system and address the shortcomings that have been highlighted.

18.46 – Interesting aside now from Fine Gael TD Liam Twomey.

He tells the Dáil he wants to put on the record that the was up before court himself last week regarding penalty points charges.

The Wexford deputy says he had “no recollection” of received any letter from the gardaí regarding the matter, and that the judge struck the case out.

“I wasn’t even given the points,” he told the chamber, noting that the incident showed how reform of the system was clearly needed.

19.02 – As contributions continue, another related story just posted by TheJournal.ie’s Aoife Barry…

AN GARDA SÍOCHÁNA does not engage in racial profiling and all people are subject to the same PULSE recording procedures, the Justice Minister has said.

Minister Alan Shatter made the comment to deputies Mick Wallace and Clare Daly in reply to a number of Dáil questions asking him about allegations that Traveller children’s details are being put into the PULSE system…

Read the rest of it here (but don’t forget to come back later, Alan Shatter will be back on his feet replying to all the other TDS. At some stage).

19.14 – In case you’re wondering… Yes, the Minister is still here.

We’re now three hours into this evening’s proceedings. Peter Fitzpatrick TD (FG) of Louth is currently having his say.

19.50 – Fianna Fáil (and former Labour) TD Colm Keaveney now having his say on the issue…

He says the rest of the Cabinet should also apologise to the whistleblowers, for backing Shatter as the controversy developed.

He says the silence of his former colleagues in Labour has been “deafening”.

19.51 – Seems there’s only three TDs left in the Dáil at this stage…

20.10The Minister back on his feet now…

20.13 – Regarding the hiring process for senior garda roles (raised by several opposition TDs in the course of this evening’s proceedings) Shatter says he believes the process set in train by former Commissioner Callinan will continue, as interviews have already taken place.

20.18 – Shatter now revisiting the timeline of how he came to learn of the revelations of taped phonecalls at garda stations.

Regarding the conversations between the Taoiseach and the Attorney General, he insist’s there’s “no mystery” as to what happened.

He pays tribute to the AG as being “extraordinarily hard-working” and that “she and I talk to each other regularly”.

20.30 – John McGuinness, chairman of the PAC and FF TD, now back on his feet.

Earlier he was told by Shatter to go back and check his files, after bringing up this story in an earlier statement this afternoon (from TheJournal.ie on 27 Feb):

A FIANNA FÁIL TD says that a female garda who was pursuing a claim of sexual harassment within the force was warned off from doing so by the Garda Confidential Recipient, Oliver Connolly.

John McGuinness, who also chairs the Public Accounts Committee, raised the issue with Justice Minister Alan Shatter in the Dáil last night.

McGuinness said that Connolly — who was fired from his position earlier this month — told the garda… “…the last man who used the service was now washing cars in Navan.”

Earlier, McGuinness had asked the minister if anything was being done to follow up on the matter since he first raised it.

Tonight (having checked his files) he conceded that the Minister had written to him on 28 February saying that he would arrange to “have the matter followed up”.

McGuinness said he was now awaiting a response from “the lady in question” as to how she wanted to proceed, and asked again if the Justice Minister would consider meeting with her.


20.37 – Shatter said the issue was a “serious” one, and confirmed he had written to the FF TD on the issue — but said that otherwise he had no further knowledge of the alleged incident.

Reading his letter to McGuinness to the Dáil, he said he had asked the deputy to forward the details of the case on to him so he could follow it up properly.

He said that if the person in question wanted the information passed onto him, he would look into it personally.

20.41 – Shatter now responded to Gerry Adams’ questions on the issue, and basically going over the timeline of when he and other Cabinet members first became aware of the practice of calls being taped at garda stations. Again says there’s “no mystery” as to how he learned of the matter.

It’s something we’ve been over a good few times since statements started, much earlier…

20.43 – Minor handbags between the Ceann Comhairle and Gerry Adams, as the SF leaders says Shatter didn’t answer his question properly.

Adams told we’re running out of time for this evening’s session, and (essentially) that he’ll have to be happy with the answer he got.

21.02 – On the issue of the tapes that were made in garda stations, Shatter says he doesn’t believe they should be destroyed until it’s established what’s on the recordings.

21.11 – Independent Shane Ross TD on his feet now — Shatter’s fellow Dublin South deputy says he wants to know what happened between the time Callinan’s letter was delivered to the Department, and the Minister flying out to Mexico for St. Patrick’s Day just a few days later.

21.12 – The Minister once again goes over the timeline stated earlier as he answers the question, eventually stating “the simple answer is it wasn’t furnished to me”.

21.16 – Richard Boyd Barrett wants to know whether Shatter knew that the Secretary General of his department was visiting the Garda Commissioner on Monday night…

21.22 – Shatter says he was aware of the visit, as he had been engaged in a meeting with the Taoiseach, and the Attorney General at the time.

He says the Secretary General of his Department eventually joined the meeting, and was asked to “discuss matters with the Garda Commissioner”. Shatter says he doesn’t want to go into it much more than that…

Richard Boyd Barrett in not happy with the answer though…

What Matters?…. What Matters?

In a brief answer, Shatter effectively says ‘the matters regarding to the taping of phonecalls at garda stations’.

21.35Time to wrap up… Shatter back on his feet for a final statement (after over five hours in the Dáil).

He begins with a medium length speech about road safety, before sending everybody home (a good few TDs have drifted back in at this stage … the chamber was almost empty around 2hrs ago)…

“It’s been a long day,” Shatter says.

I won’t say I was enthralled by the repetitive calls for my resignation — which seem to be part of a single transferable speech that some members deliver

There have been some important discussions with regard to substantive issues. It is important — though it wasn’t what we were officially discussing this evening — that we get as much information as possible on the issue of the tapes, and their usage, and their numbers, and their availability, and their storage, and their relevance to either current or past court proceedings.

…And then with one bound — he was free…

21.37 – That’s it from the embattled Minister (he’s still embattled, we reckon, although no doubt he’ll be hoping today’s apology goes some way to drawing a line under the whistleblower scandal for the moment).

21.39 – The Dáil’s now moving on to other matters, namely a private members’ Bill on restorative justice (you can watch proceedings here) …. We’re bowing out for the night though.

21.42

Once again — here’s a breakdown of what happened over the epic session…
  • Justice Minister Alan Shatter apologised to the garda whistleblowers
  • He said “it was never my intention to cause any upset”
  • He corrected the record of the Dáil in relation to his earlier comments about them
  • Shatter also said it was time to ‘move on’ from the recent controversy
  • FF and SF and other opposition TDs said he still needed to resign

21.45 – Our Political Editor Hugh O’Connell’s put together this roundup, if you’re just getting online now….

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