IN A STINGING press statement released this afternoon, Justice Minister Alan Shatter criticised the Irish Independent for its front-page headline today. The headline, “Shatter – I refuse to reveal if I met Lowry”, has been described by Shatter as “predictably a grossly misleading headline”.
The minister said that the headline “quotes me as saying that ‘I refuse to reveal if I met Lowry’” but that what he had actually said was “As Minister for Justice I am not participating in Independent Newspapers agenda”. This second quote is included in the copy of the Irish Independent article twice.
Shatter claims that the newspaper article is part of “an agenda that has been in play for some time” and that he was subject to a “loaded question” from the Independent’s political editor Fionnan Sheahan. (You can read Shatter’s full statement here).
He goes on to say that the question of whether he met Michael Lowry or not in the days following the publication of the Moriarty Report is “an unethical media project of compiling a blacklist of elected TDs that ministers should not meet on legitimate official business and also with whom no conversations should ever take place”.
Should Ministers only legitimately engage with those TDs with whose words and deeds, both past and present, they agree or with those approved by the media?
This, he said, is a “slippery slope” with “echoes of the discredited McCarthy era of the 1950s in US politics”.
While the exact nature of the “loaded question” is not clear, the Irish Independent is not the only news outlet that has been posing the question of whether Minister Shatter met with Michael Lowry. TheJournal.ie and other media outlets have been asking that question since Saturday – we were told yesterday by a spokesperson for Shatter that “The Minister hasn’t provided me with an answer”. Juno McEnroe of the Irish Examiner reported on Tuesday of last week that Environment Minister Phil Hogan had with Michael Lowry six days after the release of the Moriarty Report.
When asked by TheJournal.ie if this and other media outlets could then conceivably be included in the minister’s allegations of “an unethical media project of compiling a blacklist of elected TDs that ministers should not meet on legitimate business”, a spokesperson for Minister Shatter said that they were “not sure that the minister will have anything further to add” to today’s statement but understood that the statement was “very specific” to the Independent article.
In March of this year, Alan Shatter, speaking during a debate in the Seanad on privacy legislation, accused some Irish journalists of working toward a “contrived narrative” in their articles. He alleged that some journalists left out details in stories to further this agenda.