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Monday 11 December 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Family Law

In full: The two versions of the letter Alan Shatter sent to the Taoiseach

Amid a growing row over a story on the front page of today’s Sunday Independent we publish both versions of a letter the Justice Minister sent Enda Kenny – one from the newspaper and one from the Minister.

JUSTICE MINISTER ALAN Shatter has become embroiled in a row with the Sunday Independent newspaper as he tonight issued a second statement in response to a story on its front page today.

The story concerns correspondence between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Shatter earlier this year, when Kenny had, according to the paper, asked Shatter to ‘intervene’ in a family law case before the courts.

The article – headlined, ‘Kenny asks Shatter to meddle in family case’ – reports that Shatter ultimately responded by telling the Taoiseach it would be “inappropriate” and “entirely improper” for a member of the government to intervene in such a court case.

In the first of two statements issued today, Shatter said the article “is a gross misrepresentation of the correspondence that took place”.

Later the Sunday Independent’s editor Anne Harris said she stood over the story, prompting Shatter to issue a second statement tonight in which he called on the paper to issue an “apology and correction without delay” again criticising the paper for what he said was “a wholly inaccurate claim, not supported by fact or by any correspondence between the Taoiseach and myself”.

There is also dispute over the contents of the letter, released under the Freedom of Information Act, on which the Sunday Independent story is based – there are two versions of it.

In his first statement today Shatter took issue with the Sunday Independent’s reference to “Court Registry Records”, saying:

There is no mention in my correspondence to the Taoiseach to what are described in the Sunday Independent’s article as “Court Registry Records”. There is a reference to “Land Registry Records” which are entirely different to Court Records. This is because the constituent’s letter raised an issue about the Land Registry.

In response, the Sunday Independent said it was “concerned that the Minister’s statement contains information that does not seem to be correct”. Anne Harris said:

The Minister refers  to his correspondence with the Taoiseach as having stated:“it would be entirely improper for a member of Government to intervene in any way with Land Registry records. In fact, the correspondence released to the Sunday Independent refers to the fact that it would be entirely improper for a member of Government to intervene in any way with “Court (our emphasis) Registry records.

To back this up, the paper issued a PDF copy of the letter it received in response to the Freedom of Information request and on which it based its story today:

But tonight, the Justice Minister issued another version of the letter which is almost identical but for the reference to ‘Land Registry records’ instead of ‘Court Registry records’ as contained in the Sunday Independent version of the letter.

He explained this difference: “It is possible that in response to its FOI request the Sunday Independent was furnished with an uncorrected draft response which mistakenly contained a reference to “Court Registry Records”.”

The letter, the text (rather than a PDF) of which was contained in an email from the Department of Justice with his second statement, is as follows:

Latest: Second Shatter statement rejects ‘inaccurate’ Sunday Independent story

Earlier: Shatter says newspaper article is “dishonest and inaccurate”

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