Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has told the Dáil he does not see how it can be described that Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe cooperated with the penalty point investigation when he was invited to a meeting by a member of the investigation team, and then failed to speak to the team.

Perhaps, he said, there was fault on both sides.

He said that clearly Sgt McCabe was not "directed" to cooperate, but was invited to do so.

Mr Shatter questioned the reason why someone with "so much commitment, knowing this investigation was taking place and advised by a member of my Department to give information, doesn't co-operate" with the investigating authority.

Earlier, Mr Shatter denied that he misled the Dáil in October when he said Sgt McCabe had not cooperated with the garda inquiry into penalty points.

Minister Shatter was speaking as he opened the Dáil debate on the Government's handling of allegations of garda malpractice.

The Government appointed barrister Seán Guerin yesterday to look into how allegations from Sgt McCabe were handled.

Mr Guerin has been asked to examine if the controversy merits a formal Commission of Inquiry.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have both called for an immediate Commission of Inquiry.

Mr Shatter said any allegation of wrongdoing must be taken seriously and allegations are not facts.

The minister said Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin should have allowed the Taoiseach to deal with the allegations if his primary motion was to have them examined.

Mr Shatter said that as minister he was solemnly bound to protect the rights of all citizens.

He said he had no animosity towards Sgt McCabe and no desire to have a public or private dispute with a garda.

Mr Shatter said he regretted the fact that allegations made by Sgt McCabe have been caught up in partisan and political debate.

He said that all whistleblowers should be treated with respect.

Mr Shatter said it will be the decision of Mr Guerin whether a Commission of Inquiry is required.

He said Mr Guerin is being asked to report his findings before the Easter recess and to make recommendations.

He said the report will be published immediately and if he does recommend a Commission of Inquiry, there will be one, but he did not want to prejudge the issue.

In response, Mr Martin accused the minister of going "down the road of distraction".

He said blaming the last government was cynical and pathetic, and the Cabinet decision yesterday to review the matter externally was significant.

Mr Martin said a number of serious questions had arisen and there was no faith that they were being investigated properly.

He said efforts had been made at various levels to dampen or squash allegations.

Mr Martin said that efforts to distract from the serious allegations would not work.

He said: "Minister Shatter has adopted the strategy that attack is the only form of defence."

Mr Martin accused the minister of being "willing to lay down his friends to protect himself".

He accused the minister of being unable to admit when he is in the wrong and having the humility to say sorry.

Mr Martin said he should apologise to Sgt McCabe for saying he did not cooperate with the internal garda inquiry led by Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahony.

Adams says Shatter has failed 'miserably'

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams accused Mr Shatter of failing miserably on the issue of whistleblowers.

He said the recent scandals have demonstrated an unhealthily close relationship between Mr Shatter and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan.

Mr Adams said there had been a failure to properly address the issues that have emerged for the justice system and gardaí.

He said the first instinct had been to circle the wagons around senior gardaí, rather than get to the bottom of the matter.

The only credible way to bring this "chaotic episode to a conclusion is to provide a Commission of Inquiry", he said.

Mr Adams said the appointment of a barrister to examine the claims of garda malpractice is not enough.

He also criticised Mr Shatter for not addressing the dismissal of confidential recipient Oliver Connolly in his speech.

He said his was the "only head to roll in this series of scandals".

Independent TD Mick Wallace said the proposal to appoint a barrister to investigate the claims was wholly inadequate.

He criticised Minister Shatter for a lack of effort to improve relations between the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and gardaí.

In an emotional address, Mr Wallace said: "The commissioner said we should rely on trust and confidence and he would give information when he saw fit.

"It just seems to get worse and worse."

Independent TD Clare Daly said every response put forward by the Government has been "too little, too late", and called for a "proper commission of inquiry".

She also suggested that Commissioner Callinan be dismissed as a result of allegations of garda malpractice.

She told Minister Shatter that he will "soldier out" the controversy by sacrificing those around him.

Socialist TD Joe Higgins said the uniform response of the Government has been to "close ranks".

He said it was not because of the "close professional relationship" between the Minister for Justice and Garda Commissioner, but it was because the Government and its predecessors rely on gardaí to "implement right wing neo-liberal policies against the opposition of ordinary people". 

Kenny explains sacking of Confidential Recipient

The Taoiseach has said the Confidential Garda Recipient was sacked because he would not confirm if he had made controversial comments about Mr Shatter.

Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Kenny said the transcript of an alleged conversation between Sgt McCabe and Mr Connolly was "outrageous".

He said: "The recipient did not answer the question: 'Did you say these things, is this what you said?' 

"You could not have a situation without answering those straight questions, so for that reason his position became untenable."

Campaigners criticise Government

The Chief Executive of Transparency International Ireland has said that he does not believe the Government is taking the controversy seriously enough.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, John Devitt said the interim review of the matter is just delaying the inevitable and it was only a matter of time before a committee of investigation was undertaken.

He said: "This whole affair is begging questions about the competence and the willingness of both senior management in Phoenix Park and the Department of Justice to get to grips with what’s going on and to uncover the truth."

He welcomed the fact that gardaí will soon be able to complain directly to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman office, but said the Government needed to equip GSOC with adequate staffing levels.