MINISTER FOR FINANCE MICHAEL Noonan said that he couldn’t answer the question as to why the Minister for Justice was not aware of the details of the recordings at garda stations until yesterday.
It emerged today that the former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan is reported to have sent a letter to the Secretary General of the department asking that the Minister of Justice be made aware of the details of the recordings.
The letter is dated 1o March 2014 and was couriered over to the department.
Speaking on RTÉ’S Prime Time this evening, Noonan said that the he couldn’t answer the question as to why the department did not bring the letter to the ministers attention, or why Shatter did not know about it until yesterday.
He said he could only “assume” that officials at the Department of Justice did not think they were under any time pressure to inform the minister.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil today that the government has received information of tape recordings in “many garda stations” dating back to the 1980s.
He said he was made aware of the information at 6pm on Sunday by the Attorney General. However, Shatter said that he was not told about the letter until yesterday.
The system of recording calls has been in place “for many years” up until November of last year at “a large number of Garda stations “where incoming and outgoing calls were taped and recorded.
St Patrick’s Day in Mexico
Noonan said that Minister Shatter was away for St Patrick’s Day for some time and was back in the office on Monday.
Maybe they didn’t think it was important at the time.
When asked by Miriam O’Callihan why someone would not raise the issue with Minister Shatter before yesterday and why they didn’t simply call Minister Shatter while he was away representing Ireland in St Patrick’s celebrations, Noonan said the minister was in Mexico, adding that perhaps the officials thought they were not under any time pressure to inform the minister.
He added, “I assume senior officials said they would evaluate it as best we can and when the minister comes back we’ll appraise him on it,” said Noonan.
He added as the minister was out of the office maybe the senior officials had reasons for doing it “face to face”.
Noonan said that he was in no way “suggesting this is satisfactory”.
He said it was the content of one recording and one matter of litigation that increased the “magnitude” of the issue and “moved the relevance of the issue up by hundreds of percent”.
Noonan said that the government were not “happy” with the situation, stating:
“We’re not happy, the Taoiseach is not happy, that’s why there is a commission of investigation”.
When asked if he supported Minister Shatter he said he believed the minister to be a “very good” minister” adding that people opposed to him had “vested interests” in him resigning.
He said only reason for a minister to resign would be where there was an issue malpractice. He said there was no suggestion Shatter “did anything improper so he shouldn’t stand down,” he said.
Noonan would not speculate on the reasons behind the former commissioners resignation, stating the commissioner said he stood down for family reasons.
“He served county very well very,” said Noonan adding that he fought a good fight against criminal activity of the IRA and said he didn’t want to “dump on the commissioner”.
Related: Shatter’s department told of recordings two weeks ago – but he only got the letter this morning>