Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter, right, and former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan
Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter responds…
I want to thank Mr Justice Kevin O’Higgins and his team for the manner in which the Commission’s investigation was conducted, their careful and thorough approach to establish the truth and to ensure the application of fair procedures.
I welcome that the O’Higgins Commission, having conducted an independent sworn statutory Commission of Investigation, has concluded that, when Minister for Justice, I took “very seriously” the complaints and allegations of 23rd January 2012, made by Sgt Maurice McCabe through the Confidential Recipient and that there were “compelling considerations” which justified my response to them. (These are detailed in Para 13.123 & 124 of the Commission’s Report).
Contrary to the Guerin Report’s assertion that I failed “to heed the voice” of Sgt McCabe, I also welcome that the O’Higgins Commission found that I had “very substantial concerns” about Sgt McCabes’ complaints and that at all times I dealt “professionally”, “promptly”, “reasonably” and “appropriately” with them.
Moreover, contrary to the Guerin Report, the O’Higgins Commission also found that I was “intimately” aware of the relevant applicable legislation, as were officials in the Department of Justice.
The O’Higgins Commission also rejects the contention of Sgt McCabe, given credence in the Guerin Report, that in my initially seeking a report from the Garda Commissioner on the serious allegations made by Sgt McCabe I was asking the Commissioner to “investigate himself”.
The Commission concludes that my doing so was “an obvious, prudent and sensible thing to do” and had I “acted otherwise” I would have been “open to justified criticism”.
I further welcome the conclusion that I “cannot be faulted” for “not taking further action” concerning a request for an inquiry, made in September 2012 by Sgt McCabe’s solicitors, “in circumstances where Sgt McCabe continued to assert a claim of confidentiality over relevant correspondence and enclosures”.
The Commission acknowledges this prevented the obtaining of “observations” from the then Garda Commissioner “as a preliminary step before deciding whether to establish such an inquiry”.
In fact, the Commission finds that my “personal input” in seeking to resolve this difficulty “displayed personal and active concern” on my part.
I am relieved that the truth has been established and that the O’Higgins Commission “unreservedly” accepted my evidence that I never held views, opinions or attitudes “wrongly attributed” to me by Mr Oliver Connolly, the former Confidential Recipient and recorded and transcribed by Sgt McCabe.
These got widespread currency and resulted in substantial controversy. The Report states that my evidence on this matter was “unchallenged and uncontradicted” in the hearing before the Commission. Both Sgt McCabe and Mr Connolly were present and legally represented at the relevant hearing.
One of the matters of major concern was the alleged Garda failings preceding the appalling murder of the late Sylvia Roche Kelly in 2007.
Charges made against me of ignoring the concerns of Sgt McCabe connected to this tragic event have now been independently established to be unfounded.
The O’Higgins Commission acknowledges that I was aware that a complaint had been made by Mr Lorcan Roche Kelly to GSOC which was engaged in an independent investigation into what occurred.
The Commission describes GSOC’s investigation as “thorough and necessarily lengthy” with certain aspects ongoing.
It is very regrettable that Mr Roche Kelly, prior to my appointment as Minister for Justice, as the Commission finds, was “not well served by the fact that a considerable period of time elapsed” in GSOC deciding whether it or An Garda Siochana on its behalf should conduct the required investigation and due to some confusion within GSOC as to the relevant statutory provisions.
In short, the findings of the O’Higgins Report, like the earlier Cooke and Fennelly Reports, have unequivocally established that, when Minister for Justice, I dealt properly and truthfully with Garda related matters that gave rise to substantial controversy in the Spring of 2014 and many false allegations by opposition politicians, including Micheal Martin, the Fianna Fail leader of the opposition.
The conclusions of the O’Higgins Commission totally contradict and are incompatible with the adverse findings made against me in the Guerin Report.
The O’Higgins Commission rightly praises Sgt McCabe for highlighting deficiencies in investigations, failures in procedures and practices, and poor conditions in Bailiboro Garda station.
It records that eleven, but not all of his complaints had previously been upheld by the internal Garda Byrne/McGinn Investigation concluded in 2010.
Some of the complexity of dealing with issues raised by Sgt McCabe is derived from the fact, as found by the O’Higgins Commission, that he is “prone to exaggeration at times”.
In this context, the Commission records that some of his complaints have been upheld by it whilst “others have proven to be overstated or exaggerated”.
Some of a very serious nature were determined to be “without foundation” or “any evidence” or “unreasonable”. A number of complaints of long duration were withdrawn during the course of the Commissions’ hearings.
The Commission found “there was not a scintilla of evidence” for his “hurtful” allegations that former Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, was guilty of corruption and arranged to have a Superintendent placed on a promotion list, this being the primary complaint received by me as Minister on 23rd January 2012 which was at the foundation of allegations made by Michael Martin on the Dail plinth and later in the Dail Chamber in February 2014.
What the Commission also described as “hurtful” allegations of corruption made against Asst Commissioner Byrne, Chief Superintendent Rooney and Superintendent Clancy and an implied allegation against Superintendant Cunningham were all also determined to be “unfounded”.
Of course, these allegations of corruption should never have been made.
Garda related events in which I was engaged, when Minister for Justice, which gave rise to substantial public controversy have now been examined by three different independent retired judges of our Superior Courts.
They have irrefutably established that serious charges and accusations made against me, both inside and outside the Dail, were entirely untrue.
For over two years, I have had to live with the public opprobrium, criticism and abuse they generated. I hope that with the publication of the O’Higgins Report, I can now move on to a new chapter.
It is clear from the O’Higgins Report that the Garda failings indentified in it occurred well before my appointment as Minister for Justice, at a time when Micheal Martin was in Government.
It is now for Micheal Martin to explain why, in February 2014, he chose to ignore that all of the matters detailed in Sgt McCabe’s letter of 23rd January 2012, save for the allegations of corruption against the Garda Commissioner, related to events that occurred in 2007/2008 when Fianna Fail was in Government, and why he chose, together with his Fianna Fail colleagues, to accuse me of “undermining the administration of Justice in the State” and to target me with a torrent of false allegations about my conduct as Minister for Justice.
The truth has now been irrefutably established. Now that we are in the era of “new politics”, I hope that Michael Martin and all of my accusers, then in opposition, will now reflect on how they dealt with these matters and withdraw on the Dail record the false allegations they made.
Before my resignation and in my resignation letter and also following publication of the Guerin Report in engagements with the Taoiseach and, later, on 19th June 2014, in the Dail Chamber, I disputed the approach of Mr Sean Guerin SC in the conduct of his Inquiry.
Both in my engagements with the Taoiseach and in the Dail Chamber, I disputed his findings against me.
My concerns were entirely ignored by the Taoiseach and my Dail contribution was not only ignored by all sides in the Dail Chamber, including the Minister for Justice, but also ridiculed and criticised by some commentators.
The Guerin Report was laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas, its flawed conclusions and opinions were accepted in full by the Government and the Taoiseach put on the Dail record its adverse conclusions concerning my conduct as Minister for Justice.
If the Government, as it must, accepts the O’Higgins Commission findings in full, the Taoiseach now has a duty to correct the Dail record.
The Government also has a duty to ensure the now discredited adverse conclusions and opinions contained in the Guerin Report are acknowledged to be in error and corrected and that the Report is withdrawn from circulation in its present form.
These are important issues of relevance to standards in public life, fair procedures and the importance of truth in politics. I will be writing to the Taoiseach on issues of relevance and importance following on from publication of the O’Higgins Report and seeking a substantive response.
Previously: Garda Confidential
Via Gavan Reilly
You may recall dreamboat Canadian-born UCD academic Dr Julien Mercille gave evidence at the Banking Inquiry last week.
Dr Mercille, author of The Political Economy and Media Coverage of the European Economic Crisis: The Case of Ireland, discussed media collusion in the boom and bust.
How did that go down?
“… Chasing red herrings and matters of no consequence remains a risk when competing politicians from different parties gather in conclave.”
“This week, they devoted some hours to considering the views of some obscure academic by the name of Julien Mercille. He has cast himself in the role of being some kind of messiah when it comes to the media, and its alleged involvement with spiralling house prices.”
“When it comes to the foibles of newspapers, in particular, Mr Mercille seems to be an expert on all those ”unknown unknowns” which challenge lesser mortals. Such is the way of self-appointed gurus. However, his arguments suffer from one overwhelming weakness – I cannot recall him predicting the crash either.”
Gerry O’Regan former Irish Independent editor
“Finding out why was never going to be easy, but the inquiry got off to a pretty poor start on Wednesday. Before newspaper editors, including the Irish Examiner’s Tim Vaughan, the first witness was an academic chap, Julien Mercille.”
“Dr Mercille lectures in the department of geography in UCD and is the holder of a Phd on ‘the political economy’. He has written academic publications on matters such as the war on drugs, but he is not a media academic, and has never worked in the Irish media. He has penned a book based on the newspapers’ coverage of the property boom and bust.”
“The thesis of his book is that the media is largely a tool of “the elites” and reflects their views at the cost of telling “the truth” or catering for “ordinary people”. It’s not clear whom exactly the elites are, but it’s safe to say Dr Mercille does not include among them highly-educated, well-paid and pensioned academics. Those souls are far more likely to be “ordinary people”, in search of “the truth”, whatever that is in a political context.”
“Dr Mercille’s thesis on the media derives as much from his political perspective as from any neutral examination of the function and performance of newspapers. His columns and media appearances suggest his politics chimes with that of the so-called far left, although Dr Mercille told the inquiry he would consider himself “progressive”, rather than left- or right-wing.”
“There’s nothing wrong with any of that. Diversity of opinion is a positive feature of public life. What is baffling is why an important Oireachtas inquiry, on a very tight schedule, found it useful to hear about the media from a man who could not be described as either a practitioner or an expert. Perhaps the politicians thought this passed for the ‘balance’ they habitually contend is lacking in coverage of their affairs.”
Michael Clifford, ‘Special Correspondent’ Irish Examiner
“Dr Mercille is a man of the hard left. In his hard-left worldview, capitalism is dominated by interconnected elites, who are in the minority, but because they wield all the power they are able to keep the majority poor and suppressed…..
Last year I was invited to debate the role of the media with Dr Mercille at a conference. In preparation for the event, I read his work carefully. His claims about the failings of the media during the bubble period are based on articles which appeared in this newspaper, the Irish Independent, the Irish Times, and episodes of RTE’s Prime Time. He claims that when this output is analysed it shows a highly unbalanced picture of cheerleading for the boom and only a tiny amount of time and space given to dissenters.
Interested in analysing his evidence, I contacted Dr Mercille and asked him to share the database he had collated. It turned out that he had not gathered the data in the normal way that any rigorous academic would do, so that the findings could be replicated, tested and built on. As such, it is not possible for anyone to know what was included in his study and – probably more importantly – what was not included.
The issue of what is not included in any study is important because it is the most common fault found in academic work.
As Dr Mercille’s evidence base is not available, it is impossible to assess the accuracy of his study, but there is reason to question it.”
Dan O’Brien, Sunday Independent.
Sunday Business Post:
A former Irish Times journalist,[Harry] Browne’s assertion that the media were “property porn” cheerleaders for choosing to feature property programmes and lifestyle features, distinctly smacked of poacher turned gamekeeper. The architectural nerd in me enjoys watching property, interior design and restoration programmes. I like watching cooking programmes too. Perhaps we should blame them for rising obesity levels? Or blame travel programmes for inspiring wanderlust?
Browne’s peer, UCD academic Dr Julien Mercille, was no more enlightened when he suggested that journalists could have predicted the property bubble and the crash itself. I anticipate a much more intriguing week this week, as the focus shifts to estate agents and their role in the bubble.
Tina Marie O’Neil, Sunday Business Post
Geraldine Kennedy: “I listened to Dr. Mercille with great interest yesterday. Without doubt he was the finest conspiracy theorist I have heard in a long time. I was disappointed that his material was not evidence based. He gave one fact in his submission which was that there 40,000 articles written in The Irish Times about economic policy and the property boom and only 78 about affordable housing. That is absolutely wrong. It is very easy to press a button and get “property bubble” without taking into account all the other formulations of expressing that same phenomenon. Between the years 2008 and 2013 the country was banjaxed, it was bankrupt. Unless we want it to be Greece, one had to try to bring the country out of the mire. I noted yesterday that he seemed to support Argentina and in something else I read about him he supported—–
Deputy Joe Higgins: “Does Ms Kennedy dispute the figures and the percentages that he outlined in terms of the support for…”
Kennedy: “No. I do not know but I would be surprised.”
Higgins: “But Ms Kennedy said that his contribution was not facts based and
now she says she does not know.”
Kennedy: “I do not know as I did not study that period because the terms of reference of the inquiry given to me were for 2002 to 2007. His figures were for 2008 to 2013 which is beyond my period as editor and I did not study that before coming in here. I will say that I believe, personally, and would probably have pursued the policy as editor, that there was very little option for Ireland unfortunately but to try to get its house back in order. It required great sacrifices by ordinary people.”
Higgins: “Yes. In other words, Ms Kennedy supports it. Did she support then the bailout of the financial markets rather than the people who were victims?”
Higgins: “How is that balanced journalism?”
Chairman: “I am going to move on.”
Former Irish Times editor Geraldine Kennedy at the banking inquiry.
Update: Dr Mercille responds
Previously: Mercille Live
Fair play to George, I’m no fan but this gave me a laugh! A listener texted the show yesterday asking George to retire… his response…
(Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland)
You may recall a post from Monday in relation to Daintree Paper, on Camden Street in Dublin after its owner Paul Barnes, top, removed a same-sex cake topper from a display.
Jane Casey of Gay Community News (GCN) writes:
“Today GCN received an open letter from Paul Barnes, owner of Daintree Paper Ltd, responding to the cake topper fiasco. Thought it might be of interest to Broadsheet readers considering how much attention the story received earlier this week…”
To whom it concerns.
Over the past few days I have received many emails and messages through social media expressing a whole range of emotions at a decision I made in my business to remove a same sex cake topper from a display in my shop the Daintree Wedding Hub which is located behind Daintree paper on Camden Street in Dublin.
I would like to say that in doing this, it was in no way my intention to cause offence to anyone and I unreservedly apologise for any offence caused.
I am not homophobic, I have employed gay people in my business and I have never refused to print invitations for civil ceremonies.
I do have beliefs however, and these beliefs are formed and orientated by the Roman Catholic Church, a church of which I am a member. I try to live by its teachings because this church has given me many, many blessings in my life, and in my family for generations.
The reason I removed the topper was that it is my opinion that it does not reflect the values I try to aspire to. These values influence my whole life as can be seen in the Daintree building and the products we sell in our shop which respect and care for the environment. The easy option would have been for me to ignore the topper, however in doing this I would have felt like a total hypocrite.
The mistake was mine in not making it clear to Nicola Hyland, of the Cake Topper company, and indeed the other vendors what I thought was acceptable to display in the Wedding Hub.
I respect and acknowledge the right of those who disagree with me, even those who tried to organise a boycott against the shop, I simply ask the same respect for my freedom.
I wish you all well.
Paul Barnes, Daintree Ltd.
Previously: Driven To Tiers
Pic: Screengrab from here