[Justice Minister Alan Shatter]
In his speech this morning Justice Minister Alan Shatter referred to allegations made against him by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.
Firstly, that he had done nothing about very serious claims against the Gardai.
And secondly, that he had not responded to correspondence from Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
Mr Shatter stated that he intended to demonstrate to the House that none of those charges were true.
Minister Shatter this morning detailed the history of the complaints made by Sergeant McCabe, which he stated were brought to his attention on the 23rd January 2012, when he received a report from the Garda Confidential Recipient, Oliver Connolly.
He described the contents of the report received by him as including “12 allegations against a named Superintendent … a complaint against the Assistant Commissioner… and a complaint against the Garda Commissioner for permitting the named Superintended to be on a panel for promotion to Chief Superintendent in circumstances where the Garda Commissioner knew, or ought to have known of, the alleged wrongdoing of the Superintendent… not only were there allegations of malpractice, but also of corruption in that Gardai were generally accused of engaging in falsifying records, erasing officials records, erasing reported incidents, destroying and altering official records, covering up serious investigations and ‘gross dereliction of duty on a massive scale.”
Minister Shatter then stated that “reports from the Confidential Recipient are only forwarded to me where an allegation is made against the Commissioner.” This is correct and is provided for in Section 7(2) of SI No 168/2007 Garda Siochana (Confidential Reporting of Corruption or Malpractice) Regulations 2007.
However what Mr Shatter failed to mention is that such reports are forwarded to the Minister for a specific purpose, which he failed to fulfil.
Section 8(2) of the same Regulations states that, on receipt of a report containing an allegation against the Garda Commissioner, the Minister, unless he or she has reason to believe that the allegation contained in it was not made in good faith or is false, frivolous or vexatious, shall cause the allegation to be investigated or take such other action as he or she considers appropriate in the circumstances”
What action did Mr Shatter take?
In his speech – without referencing his obligation under Section 8(2) – he states that he “took the letter so seriously that on 24th January, the following day, my Secretary General, at my request, wrote to the Garda Commissioner seeking an urgent report.”
This statement implies that Mr Shatter had a choice as to whether or not to deal with the report. He did not.
His legal obligation to consider reports about the Garda Commissioner – the person normally appointed to investigate complaints – is a key part of the Regulations.
By no stretch of the imagination could it be said that Mr Shatter caused the allegations against the Garda Commissioner in the report to be investigated.
On receiving a detailed response from the Garda Commissioner on the 30th January 2012, Mr Shatter wrote to the Confidential Recipient and informed him of this response.
It appears that it was the communication of this fact to the Confidential Recipient that led to the conversation between Mr McCabe and Mr Connolly [transcript here] , and it is against this backdrop that the conversation should be assessed.
Mr Shatter in his speech does not make any reference to doing anything further.
Writing to a person against whom a complaint is made, and reading their response, is not ‘causing a complaint to be investigated’ within the meaning of Section 8(2) of the Regulations.
It is not even a proper investigation of a complaint.
The only way in which Mr Shatter could be said to have complied with his duty is if he had reason to believe that the allegations contained in Mr McCabe’s report were not made in good faith or were false, frivolous or vexatious.
Did Mr Shatter believe that these allegations were not made in good faith or were false, frivolous or vexatious? He does not say so in his speech.
Earlier in his speech, Mr Shatter says:- “What is crucial is that the evidence for allegations made is carefully and properly examined.”
Mr Shatter’s belief in this principle, and in something else he refers to in his speech ‘the rule of law’ is contradicted by the fact that he – on the facts put forward in the speech – apparently failed to fulfil his duty under Section 8(2) in respect of the report submitted to him on the 23rd January 2012.
The frustration felt by Mr McCabe in relation to this is evident in the transcript [here], in which he states:-
“Sure it’s a joke really Oliver, when you see it. Like the Minister should go to someone independent to look at it… he is believing the Commissioner and not me. So, it’s a joke, isn’t it really.”
If Mr Shatter made a decision, in January 2012, not to cause the investigation of the report submitted to him by the Confidential Informant because he found that the allegations in it were not made in good faith, or were false frivolous or vexatious, he should state this.
So far he has not done so, and this begs the question – is the Minister aware of his duty under Section 8(2)? And, if so, why has he apparently not complied with it?
And, if Mr Shatter in fact found that the allegations were not made in good faith, or were false, frivolous or vexatious, this finding must have been solely based on the response of the Garda Commissioner – the person complained about.
Mr Shatter is correct that there are flaws in the administration of the regulations. But could it be that the flaws lie in the way in which they are being applied by him, rather than the regulations themselves?
In his speech, Mr Shatter retains the position that Mr McCabe refused to cooperate with the investigation carried out by Assistant Commissioner O’Mahoney into the penalty points issue.
In justification of his continuing refusal to apologise to Mr McCabe, he cites the following examples of non-co-operation.
Firstly, a conversation between Mr McCabe and Chief Superintendent Mark Curran, and already discussed on Prime Time, which consisted of a direction that Mr McCabe desist from accessing Pulse and disclosing its data to third parties, ending with a statement that Mr McCabe he had any concerns he could take this up with Assistant Commissioner O’Mahoney.
Secondly, a letter sent from an official of the Department of Justice which states that any further information held by Mr McCabe should be brought by him to the attention of his authorities within the force.
Neither of these statements can reasonably be characterised as a formal or indeed an informal request to participate in the investigation carried out by Assistant Commissioner O’Mahoney.
Their ex post facto characterisation as such is not only wilfully disingenuous , but contradicts the professed concern for whistleblowers loudly expressed by Mr Shatter earlier in his speech.
Thirdly, and most insultingly to Mr McCabe – and indeed to the intelligence of anyone watching – Mr Shatter cites as non-co-operation by Mr McCabe his failure to comply with an invitation by Assistant Commissioner O’Mahoney to meet – after the report was finalised and before it was published.
If Assistant Commissioner O’Mahony could invite Mr McCabe to meet with him after the report was finalised – why not earlier?
The insistence by Mr Shatter that Mr McCabe was uncooperative is completely belied by the many examples he gives, earlier in his speech, of Mr McCabe’s persistence and dedication in seeking to pursue his complaints. These are examples of a man doing everything he can to ensure that he is heard.
The same voice requesting to be heard is to be found in the transcript of the conversation between Mr McCabe and Mr Connolly,
Mr Shatter’s speech contains not only half-truths, and disingenuity, but a glaring omission. He fails to deal with the contents of this transcript, and the precise reason for sacking Mr Connolly following its publication.
Charlie Flanagan, on behalf of Fine Gael, has stated on the radio that Mr Connolly was sacked because he made statements that were defamatory of Mr Shatter. A defamatory statement, according to the Defamation Act, is one which injures a person’s reputation in the eyes of reasonable members of society. Mr Connolly’s statements about Mr Shatter certainly do that.
If the allegations made by Mr Connolly are serious enough to justify his sacking, they are serious enough for Mr Shatter – our Minister for Justice – to answer. He appears to think that he does not need to do so.
Earlier: “Life Is Complicated…”