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Kenny: 'The difference is Wallace broke the law, and Shatter didn't'

The Taoiseach is pressed on why a report exists of Mick Wallace’s encounter with Gardaí, but none of Alan Shatter’s.

THE TAOISEACH has again insisted he has “absolute confidence” in Alan Shatter, as the Dáil prepares to debate a motion of no confidence in the justice minister.#

Shatter’s record was brought under the spotlight again at today’s Leaders’ Questions, when Kenny insisted that Shatter’s use of privileged information – in a TV debate against Mick Wallace two weeks ago – was to undermine Wallace’s argument and not Wallace himself.

After Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins said Shatter had been no more reforming than any other Minister for Justice, Kenny launched into a lengthy litany of proposals brought forward by Shatter since he was appointed 26 months ago.

“These innovative and far-reaching proposals… will bring our legal system, our justice system, and all connected with that, into the 21st century,” Kenny had said.

Collins accused Kenny of dodging his questions about whether it was possible for a Garda Commissioner to have confidence in Shatter when it was possible that any privileged information could be used in the course of a political argument.

“What message do you think it sends out when you have a Minister for Justice in waiting, stopped at a mandatory checkpoint by An Garda Síochána, citing that he is travelling home from Dáil Éireann?” Collins asked.

“Do you think that’s appropriate? Because you’re not addressing it, Taoiseach,” he added. “Do you think the use of privileged and confidential information was appropriate?”

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said it appeared “rather strange” that one TD (Wallace) could get a nod from Gardaí at a traffic light, never exchange words with a Garda, and have the Garda Commissioner informed of their offence – while no record existed of how another TD (Shatter) was stopped at a mandatory checkpoint and spoke to Gardaí.

Adams said Shatter’s statement earlier today – when he affirmed that no Garda record existed of his encounter at the checkpoint on Pembroke Street in 2009 – was questionable, given that Gardaí are legally required to keep a log of any mandatory checkpoint they set up.

“There’s a difference between Deputy Wallace and Deputy Shatter,” Kenny said, drawing howls from the opposition benches.

In the case of Deputy Wallace, that is an offence under the law. Deputy Shatter had committed no offence.

The technical group’s Mattie McGrath meanwhile devoted his questions to the conduct of FG’s Jerry Buttimer, the chairman of the Oireachtas Health Committee, over his handling of the hearings on the draft abortion laws.

McGrath said Buttimer had told the committee that the heads of the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill provided “the framework but not the detail” of the proposed system for governing abortions in Ireland.

He had said the next morning, however, that “provision would be made” to allow abortion in some cases, including where the mother’s life was at risk through suicide.

As Buttimer (below) looked on in bemusement, McGrath said Buttimer’s affirmation about the contents of the Bill showed he had already disregarded the expert testimony given to his committee.

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“Ultimately it was wasted breath since the outcome was already predetermined, Taoiseach,” McGrath said.

Kenny responded that Buttimer was not in charge of preparing the legislation, and that the purpose of his hearings was to “have a reflection” on the draft proposals as they stood.

Kenny insisted that the legislation, when published in its final draft, would uphold the right to life of the unborn and the obligation of doctors to save the lives of both the mother and the unborn child wherever possible.

McGrath insisted that the X Case test for a threat to a woman’s life through suicide had been overtaken by medical research showing that abortion could never be prescribed as a treatment to stop a person from feeling suicidal thoughts.

He remarked that Buttimer’s handling of the hearings must make him a favourite to be appointed as the new junior agriculture minister, a position which has been vacant since the death of Shane McEntee before Christmas.

Buttimer was seen on Oireachtas cameras shaking his head dismissively during McGrath’s comments.

Read: Shatter: ‘No garda report generated on breathalyser incident’

More: Michael Lowry defends and defriends ‘irritating and brash’ Alan Shatter

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Gavan Reilly

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