Alan Shatter criticises 'inaccurate' report in Sunday Independent

Tuesday 30 October 2012 12.14
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Alan Shatter said he hopes the Sunday Independent will publish an apology
Alan Shatter said he hopes the Sunday Independent will publish an apology
Fianna Fáil's Niall Collins has called on the Taoiseach to explain the claims
Fianna Fáil's Niall Collins has called on the Taoiseach to explain the claims

The Minister for Justice has accused a Sunday newspaper of writing a "contrived sensational story" to damage the reputation of the Taoiseach.

In a statement this afternoon, Alan Shatter denied Enda Kenny had asked him to meddle or intervene in a family law case as had been claimed in a report in the Sunday Independent.

The newspaper had alleged that the Taoiseach had written two letters to Mr Shatter relating to the case.

It also claimed that in response, the minister had told the Taoiseach that it was inappropriate and entirely improper for him to comment on the case.

However, the Minister for Justice has strongly criticised the newspaper and dismissed its "inaccurate report".

He said the Taoiseach had forwarded a letter from a constituent to him.

In his covering letter, Mr Kenny had requested the minister examine the points raised in the constituent's letter and advise him.

The matter was never described as a legal case but an issue of family law. He was not asked to "meddle" in a family law case, nor was he asked to intervene.

The minister said he did not tell Mr Kenny that it was entirely improper for a member of the Government to intervene.

What he did say was that he hoped the constituent would understand it was entirely improper for a minister to intervene.

Mr Shatter said the newspaper had obtained the records under the Freedom of Information Act and then "corrupted the content" to create a sensational story for the paper's commercial benefit.

"This was deliberately done to damage the Taoiseach's reputation, to represent me as having admonished the Taoiseach and to attract critical comment from Oireachtas members who had not read the correspondence concerned," he said.

The minister said he expected Independent Newspapers would be taking steps to address the issues raised in the story and publish an appropriate apology.

In a statement this evening, Sunday Independent Editor Anne Harris said she rejected "the content and tone" of the Mr Shatter's comments.

She said that both the Taoiseach and the minister were offered the opportunity to comment last Friday but only the Taoiseach responded. His comments were published in full.

A statement issued on her behalf also went on to say that the newspaper stood by the story "that the Taoiseach made representations on behalf of a constituent, regarding an 'issue on family law' and seeking details of '....the present position in this case'."

The statement said the correspondence from Minister Shatter released to it under the Freedom of Information Act referred to court registry records and that this correspondence was relied on in their story.

In a second statement issued by the Minister tonight, Mr Shatter responded to the Irish Independent's statement by standing by his original statement.

He said the claim that the Taoiseach asked him to "meddle" and to "intervene" is untrue.

"That was, and remains a wholly inaccurate claim, not supported by fact or by any correspondence between the Taoiseach and myself," he writes.

He added: "In the interests of accuracy and fairness the Sunday Independent should issue an apology and correction without delay."

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said the letter which referred to "court registry records" was only a draft and was never actually sent to the Taoiseach.

Meanwhile, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar also said the story was inaccurate and there was nothing inappropriate about the letters between Mr Kenny and Mr Shatter.

The Fianna Fáil spokesperson on justice, Niall Collins, has said Minister Shatter's statement amounted to little more than "typical bluster" and he called on the Taoiseach to explain the claims made in the newspaper.