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Here's why Alan Shatter's legal challenge could cause the government more problems

Analysis: He hasn’t gone away you know…

Alan Shatter (File photo)
Alan Shatter (File photo)
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

“SORE, BITTER AND pissed off” was one former Cabinet colleague of Alan Shatter’s description of the ex-justice minister in the wake of his blistering criticism of the Guerin Report.

The scathing 22-minute speech in the Dáil last month now appears to have been the prelude to yesterday’s launching of a High Court challenge against parts of the report which led to Shatter’s resignation in May.

Shatter wants to quash some of the findings of barrister Seán Guerin’s report which criticised the Department of Justice’s and Shatter’s handling of allegations by the garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Shatter resigned before the report was made public in May, reading just three chapters before deciding it was in the best interests of the stability of the government that he go.

Guerin’s report took eight weeks to compile and runs to 336 pages but he did not take the opportunity to interview Shatter as part of his review.

This decision demonstrated Guerin’s failure to “comply with basic fair procedures, constitutional justice and natural justice”, according to Shatter in a second Dáil speech he made earlier this month.

While the political bubble was convulsed by the Cabinet reshuffle Shatter called for his treatment by the Guerin Report to be examined by the Human Rights and Equality Commission.

In his High Court challenge, Shatter alleges that there was objective bias, absence of fair procedures and indecent haste on the part of Guerin in how he put together the report and reached the conclusions that he did.

The court action demonstrated plenty of discussion around the relatively quiet halls of Leinster House yesterday. One Fine Gael colleague of Shatter’s noted: ”Alan just can’t leave anything rest…”

The fact that Shatter is now seeking to quash some of Guerin’s findings demonstrates that while he may not wish to distract from the government’s work – he said as much in his resignation letter in May – he may end up doing so anyway.

By his own admission on 22 May, Shatter is “going nowhere”, saying at the time: [There are] a lot of interesting things going to be happening over the next couple of years before the next election, I hope to make a positive contribution to them.”

Whatever about the government, Shatter is clearly of the firm belief that his good name should be retained, even if the conclusions of the Guerin Report have ultimately affected his future career and his reputation.

The government will be attempting to restore its own reputation, left battered by the various controversies of the first half of this year, over the coming months But in doing so they may have to occasionally address these old sores.

After all, this has been the week where Frances Fitzgerald has had to discuss in great detail the problems in the department vacated by Shatter in May.

While yesterday Foreign Affars Minister Charlie Flanagan – who benefited from Shatter’s demise with a promotion to Cabinet -  said that Shatter was within his rights to take a challenge.

Expect current ministers to face similar questions as the Shatter case rolls on. Whether they like it or not.

Read: Alan Shatter is going nowhere, and why would he when he can put on a show like this?

Alan Shatter: “I’m going nowhere”

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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