THE TAOISEACH AND the Tánaiste have given their backing to the embattled Alan Shatter amid ongoing controversy about what and when the Justice Minister knew about serious allegations of garda misconduct.
Speaking from his constituency today, Enda Kenny said that Shatter has ordered a review of all correspondence between the garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe and the Department of Justice and said the minister “will deal with that”.
Asked by RTÉ News if he has confidence in Shatter, Kenny responded: “Yes, I have.”
Speaking in Limerick, Eamon Gilmore said that the most important thing was to “deal with the substance” of the allegations made and said: “Alan Shatter is somebody who does a very good job.”
Finance Minister Michael Noonan has described Shatter as an “excellent, re forming minister” and said the opposition parties are “trying to smear him”, according to Newstalk.
There has so far been no response from the Fine Gael TD for Dublin South. He is away on EU Council business in Greece, but is expected to return to the country later today.
There are some indications that Shatter could make a statement upon his return today, but he may also wait until the Dáil returns next Tuesday.
Shatter ‘may have been mistaken’
Earlier, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte said Shatter “may have been mistaken” when he said that McCabe did not cooperate with the investigation into malpractice in the penalty points system.
Rabbitte also did not rule out the possibility that a commission of inquiry will examine the controversy which the Taoiseach has said concerns “extremely serious allegations of garda misconduct”.
On foot of an internal investigation into the penalty points controversy by an assistant garda commissioner last year, Shatter told the Dáil in October that the then anonymous whistleblower had not cooperated with the probe.
“It would appear from what has emerged now that the Minister for Justice may have been mistaken when he said that he [McCabe] didn’t cooperate, and I presume when the opportunity arises he will say whether that’s right or not,” Rabbitte told Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio this morning.
Rabbitte said he does not know if Shatter was aware of McCabe having attempted to cooperate, but said that “quite clearly” the Justice Minister was under that impression that he had not, adding: “This is not a minister who would mislead the Dáil.”
“There may have been a simple mistake here and if there is it should be corrected,” he added.
The Labour minister described the reporting of what’s in the documents handed by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to the Taoiseach as containing “very grave matters”.
‘Would have taken time to find out what’s in it’
But said he cautioned that he has not seen them and does not know exactly what’s in them.
“These are hugely serious issues and I presume what is under way is that the minister is going back over all of the paper trail on this and all of the information in the Department of Justice, before he meets with Taoiseach in respect of file now in the possession of the Taoiseach,” he said.
He said that Shatter has to be given an opportunity to respond to the issues that the documents raise and explain “what exactly happened in respect of the matters in this file that he had knowledge of”.
“I know from personal experience that if a file was passed to the Minister for Justice, this Minister for Justice would have taken time to find out what’s in it,” he said.
“He is an immensely diligent and scrupulous minister who works very long days, every day.”
He added that he has confidence in Alan Shatter who is a “reforming, hard-working, insightful minister” who must be given an opportunity to explain what happened and what happens now.
Sinn Féin has again repeated its call for Shatter to resign, with the party’s justice spokesperson Pádraig Mac Lochlainn saying: “It is very clear that Minister Shatter’s position is untenable and he should now resign.”
The party also said this afternoon that its president Gerry Adams has written to the Taoiseach calling on him to make a statement in relation to the documents when the Dáil returns next Tuesday.
First published 10.34am