Challenging days ahead for Alan Shatter

Monday 24 February 2014 10.01
Alan Shatter might brief Cabinet on just what was done about grave allegations of Garda incompetence
Alan Shatter might brief Cabinet on just what was done about grave allegations of Garda incompetence

Mícheál Lehane on the challenges facing Alan Shatter

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter will most likely brief his Cabinet colleagues tomorrow on just what was done about grave allegations of Garda incompetence.

His first task will be to convince them the claims made by Sergeant Maurice McCabe were examined.

Then he will have to go into the Dáil and tell the Opposition how their concerns have been addressed.

It is going to be a big job, even for the skilled solicitor who rarely concedes an argument in Leinster House.

This is largely because the Taoiseach last week described the allegations, in the dossier handed over by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, as "very grave".

The dossier even contains questions about the handling of the case of the man who murdered Sylvia Roche Kelly in 2007 while out on bail.

Enda Kenny would go on to say that Micheál Martin was right to hand over the documentation containing Sgt McCabe's claims.

This was extraordinary. Effectively the leader of Fianna Fáil and the Taoiseach were together dealing with massive allegations relating to the gardaí.

This sense of panic in Government was added to by Minister Shatter's departure for Greece to attend a meeting of EU defence ministers.

The minister has since returned and carried out a "review of all correspondence between his department and Sergeant McCabe".

The sense from Government is that the ship has steadied considerably. So much so that Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore would say the allegations forwarded by Mr Martin were incomplete. This, just days after the Taoiseach said they were "grave".

There is even a sense that the Minister for Justice might find a way of not having to correct the Dáil record.

This relates to his comments last October that Sgt McCabe did not co-operate with the internal Garda probe of his allegations about the cancellation of penalty points. 

Sergeant McCabe insists he was never given a chance to talk to those carrying out that inquiry. A point later confirmed by an Assistant Garda Commissioner.

Even Minister Pat Rabbitte believes Mr Shatter may have been mistaken in saying what he said in the Dáil.

Along with all this, there are certain to be more calls on Mr Shatter for a full Commission of Inquiry investigation into the suspected bugging of the offices of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).

Questions about the sacking of Garda Confidential Recipient Oliver Connolly are sure to be asked too.

It all promises to be a demanding time for the minister, who often works 16-hour days.

The next few look set to be among the longest and most challenging of his political career.