Alan Shatter apologises to garda whistleblowers

Wednesday 26 March 2014 23.31
Alan Shatter said it was never his intention to cause any upset
Alan Shatter said it was never his intention to cause any upset

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has apologised in the Dáil to the garda whistleblowers, Maurice McCabe and John Wilson.

Mr Shatter said that it was not his intention to mislead the House when he said that the men had not co-operated with the O'Mahony Inquiry into the penalty points issue.

He said it was never his intention to cause any upset.

Acknowledging the important role of the whistleblowers, Mr Shatter said he hoped they took some satisfaction from the considerable changes that have been brought about.

He also said he had to point out that there has as yet been no findings to show that allegations made in relation to the fixed-charge processing system are correct.

He cited some of the most serious allegations, including serious fraud and corruption, perversion of the course of justice by gardaí, at least seven road fatalities resulting from the termination of fixed charge notices and the destruction and alteration of hundreds of official Garda PULSE records.

Read Alan Shatter's full statement here

Statement from former garda John Wilson

As it Happened: Garda Controversy

Responding to Mr Shatter's speech, former garda Mr Wilson said: 

"It has been a long time coming, but I'm glad that the record has been finally corrected by Minister Shatter about how we reported our concerns about the unlawful termination of tens of thousands of lawfully issued fixed charge penalty notices.

"Approximately 10,000 of these lawfully issued notices were unlawfully terminated on a yearly basis by senior Garda officers. These practices have now ceased directly as a result of our complaints. 

"I would like to thank the general public for their support which kept us going over the past year."

He concluded by praising his fellow whistleblower, saying: "My colleague Sgt Maurice McCabe is still being penalised on a daily basis for reporting malpractice and corruption within the force.

"The garda authorities should be proud to have a person of the calibre of Sgt Maurice McCabe as a member of our policing service.

"And I'm demanding in the public interest that Sgt McCabe has his full rights of access to the Garda PULSE system restored with immediate effect." 

Responding in the Dáil to Mr Shatter's speech, Fianna Fáil justice spokesperson Niall Collins said the minister was brought "kicking and screaming" to apologise to the whistleblowers.

Mr Collins thanked the Garda Inspectorate for its clear and unambiguous report.

He said it has to be recalled that it was Mr Shatter who spearheaded the closure of 140 garda stations.

He said that when he was not long in office he had tried to close down the Smithwick Tribunal.

Mr Collins said there was no mention of former garda confidential recipient Oliver Connolly in the minister's statement this afternoon. 

He said that people would be wondering why it had taken Mr Shatter six months to be "dragged kicking and screaming" to apologise to the whistleblowers.

He said it was a last ditch effort by the minister to save his own skin.

Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary said that former garda commissioner Martin Callinan was forced to resign, saying: "When the Secretary General calls to you on a Monday evening it’s not with a retirement card."

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness said Minister Shatter would not "be here today were it not for the fact that the minister had set out the culture that led us to this position".

He asked Mr Shatter whether he had ever met the two whistleblowers and raised the issue of a female whistleblower, who he said was pushed out of the force when she complained of sexual harassment and her case "is still there to be dealt with".

Deputy McGuinness also asked Mr Shatter if he would apologise to members of the Travelling Community whose records, including those of a 16-day old baby, are on the PULSE system because they went into a Garda Station and asked for passport applications to be signed.

"Human rights are being abused all over the place", he said.

Sinn Féin TD Padraig Mac Lochlainn said while it was good the whistleblowers had been vindicated, no-one believed Mr Shatter had made his apology voluntarily, but it was "about saving your political hide".

The party's deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said Minister Shatter should do the decent thing and stand down.

She challenged the minister's assertion that it was never his intention to mislead the House, saying the House was misled in a calculated fashion.

She said people around the minister had "fallen like skittles". 

Independent TD Mick Wallace said that he did not have time to outline all of Minister Shatter's failings but he cited 30 reasons why he should stand down.

He said that he found the minister to be very able and intelligent but it looked like he had to go.

"I'll be honest with you minister, I'll miss you when you're gone" he told Mr Shatter.

Independent TD Clare Daly said Mr Shatter cut a very lonely figure on the Government benches.

She said there are systemic problems inside An Garda Síochána.

Socialist TD Joe Higgins said that the minister had found it very difficult to say the hardest word in his extensive vocabulary – "sorry".

He also reiterated his earlier recommendation that any inquiry into the phone recordings should involve members of the public.

Mr Higgins said that the taping of members of the public was overshadowed by the incompetence of the minister.

He also asked where the Labour Party stood on the issue.

He said two weeks ago Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton had been "flapping" before the House, trying to defend the indefensible.

He suggested that her party stands very, very humiliated tonight.