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How has Alan Shatter gone from Department of Justice to High Court?

We knew he was not on board with the Guerin Report findings. Now we know just how far he intends to go with it.

File photo: Alan Shatter files for High Court Judement Before Guerin: These three men have all vacated their posts this year - Martin Callinan, former Garda Commissioner; Brian Purcell, former Secretary General of Department of Justice; Alan Shatter, former Justice Minister. Eamonn Farrell / Photocall Ireland Eamonn Farrell / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

FORMER JUSTICE MINISTER Alan Shatter today filed proceedings in the High Court aimed at quashing the findings of a report which led to his resignation as justice minister in May.

The court action comes as no surprise given Shatter’s blistering denunciation in two separate Dáil contributions of the Guerin Report in the past few weeks.

According to Mary Carolan, writing in the Irish Times, Shatter alleges objective bias, absence of fair procedures and “indecent haste” on the part of senior counsel Seán Guerin in how he compiled his report into the handling of allegations by the garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

It is only three months since Alan Shatter held one of the most powerful positions in Cabinet – how has it come to this?

For whom the whistle blows

Alan Shatter resigned as Minister for Justice and Equality and Minister for Defence on 7 May this year after months of controversy over various matters connected to An Garda Siochana.

Among the issues of note were the way in which allegations by garda whistleblowers were handled by him and his department. These were subject of a review carried out by the barrister Seán Guerin following a government decision earlier in the year.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that Shatter had taken the decision on foot of the the Guerin Report which had made his Fine Gael colleague feel that it was “his duty” to resign his Cabinet portfolio. 

In his resignation letter Shatter said he was “anxious” that the Guerin Report did not “distract from the important work” of the coalition or create any difficulties for the elections on 23 May.

“It is my judgement that the only way in which such controversy can be avoided is by offering my resignation from Cabinet,” Shatter wrote.

What Guerin said

The Guerin Report was not published until 9 May and Shatter had only read three chapters of it before deciding it was time to resign. The three chapters – 1,19 and 20 – made clear why Shatter felt at the time he had no choice.

In his report, Guerin explained that the Minister had a statutory responsibility to act once Maurice McCabe had brought his complaints about garda malpractice to the Confidential Recipient, but he never did.

Guerin also said that in the absence of any documentary evidence, it appeared that Shatter did what he did on foot of advice from then-Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, without the advice being questioned or analysed.

Amid the significant fallout from the Guerin report, Shatter maintained his silence except for the controversy over whether or not he would accept his ministerial severance payment.

In the end Shatter courted much media publicity over the matter before deciding to take the money but give it to the Jack and Jill Foundation in what seen as a dig at the government that had been much criticised for cuts to disability services.

Hugh O'Connell / YouTube

Dáil speech

Then on 19 June, Shatter spoke in the Dáil, supposedly to give his reaction to a report into allegations that the Garda Ombudsman had been bugged – a report which largely vindicated him.

But he instead launched a blistering attack on the Guerin report.

In the Dáil chamber, the former minister expressed concern that the barrister did not interview him during the course of his investigation, saying he could have pointed out the inaccuracies in the final report had he done so.

He accused Guerin of having ”ignored the latitude given to him” and said that the senior counsel “rushed to judgment”. He also said that the report was “hastily and prematurely completed” and “a fundamentally flawed and unprecedented rush to judgement”.

In a 22-minute Dáil speech, the Fine Gael TD claimed he was “secretly put on trial” by the inquiry, and slammed Guerin for overseeing what he likened to a “kangaroo court.”

Hugh O'Connell / YouTube

Specifically, Shatter accused Guerin of misreading a letter attached to three booklets of allegations made by McCabe that had been submitted to the Department of Justice.

The report says that the letter advised that the booklets be forwarded to Shatter straight away, but that he had failed to act.

“Mr Guerin has misquoted the letter which actually advised that the two files concerned be furnished by Justice officials to the Garda Commissioner and that no copies of the documents be retained in the Department of Justice,” he said. “It makes no reference whatsoever to them being furnished to me.”

Shatter said he was “very puzzled as to why Sean Guerin did not take the additional time necessary to properly complete his work and why he rushed to judgement”.

Second Dáil speech

Then on 11 July, Shatter made another Dáil speech on the matter. While the political world was convulsed by the Garth Brooks saga and the Cabinet reshuffle, Shatter launched another blistering attack on the Guerin report.

Using his Dáil privilege while speaking on the Legal Services Regualtion Bill, Shatter said it was “extraordinary” that Guerin could “make a pronouncement” on a Minister who was overseeing legislative change that affected him.

He then called on the Human Rights and Equality Commission to examine how the report was compiled.

“In a speech I made in this House some weeks ago that both government and opposition have chosen to ignore, I raised the failure to comply with basic fair procedures, constitutional justice and natural justice in the manner in which Mr Sean Guerin, did his work in the Guerin Report.”

Today, Shatter has instigated legal proceedings aimed at remedying his grievances in the courts.

Justice Marie Baker has granted Shatter leave to bring judicial review proceedings against Guerin for orders quashing various findings in the report.

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