Garda inquiry after Shatter quits

The Government is setting up a full-scale state inquiry into alleged Garda corruption after the Justice Minister dramatically resigned over his role in the affair.

Alan Shatter, a veteran within the senior coalition partner Fine Gael, has stood down just weeks after the Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan stunned the country with his resignation amid a storm of controversies involving his force.

Mr Shatter, who also serves as Defence Minister, told Taoiseach Enda Kenny he was offering to stand down after reading a Government-ordered report into the handling of whistleblower allegations of widespread Garda wrongdoing and malpractice.

A dossier by serving Sergeant Maurice McCabe has rocked the force.

In a bid to calm growing tensions over a series of scandals, the government asked a senior criminal barrister to examine ten sample cases – including alleged murder, abduction and assault – which Sgt McCabe claims were not properly investigated.

The 300-page report is to be published on Friday but was handed to both Mr Kenny and Mr Shatter last night.

Announcing the resignation in the Dáil, Mr Kenny said the report found Mr Shatter to be “inadequate” in his obligation to be independent in his investigation of the whistleblower allegations.

“The Minister having read the report and considered its implications has sent me his resignation which I have accepted with regret,” he said.

Mr Kenny said he did not demand Mr Shatter’s resignation and added that he was not expecting anyone else to stand down over the controversy.

The Government will now set up a full statutory inquiry – known as a Commission of Investigation – into the corruption allegations.

In a resignation letter, Mr Shatter said he had reservations about the report but was offering to stand aside in the interests of his party and the junior coalition partner Labour Party ahead of upcoming elections.

“I am anxious that any controversy that may arise on publication of the report does not distract from the important work of the Government or create any difficulties for the Fine Gael or Labour parties in the period leading in the European and local government elections,” he wrote.

“It is my judgement that the only way in which such controversy can be avoided is by my offering you my resignation.”

However, Mr Shatter said he had only read three chapters of the report and agreed there should be a statutory inquiry.

It is the latest in a wave of top-level investigations into alleged Garda wrongdoing.

Six weeks ago, then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan shocked even his closest colleagues when he resigned over the uncovering of a secret system recording telephone calls at police stations for decades.

A Supreme Court judge is heading up a State inquiry into the impact of the taped conversations – specifically on the investigation into the murder of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

A legal action by former English journalist Ian Bailey for wrongful arrest in the investigation in west Cork exposed the recording system.

A retired High Court judge is leading another independent investigation into the alleged bugging of the Dublin headquarters of the force’s official watchdog, the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission.

Mr Shatter had previously shrugged off allegations of an unhealthily close relationship with Mr Callinan.

Cabinet colleagues stood by him yesterday when it was revealed that he had breached data protection laws in revealing on live television last year that a political opponent, Mick Wallace, had been seen by police using his mobile phone while driving, although he was not prosecuted.

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice and Equality, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has said that his resignation was "long overdue" and he stated that the lessons of the Minister’s tenure must be learned by the Government.

Deputy Mac Lochlainn said: "Our party has twice voted no confidence in Minister Alan Shatter in Dáil votes in the last year and we believe that his resignation is long overdue.

"However Minister Shatter's resignation is only the start of what needs to be done. The crisis in public confidence in the administration of justice must be urgently addressed by this Government and by the incoming Minister.

"We need to see the implementation of a new independent policing authority accountable to an independent policing board, the Oireachtas and to local Joint Policing Committees.

"Further, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission needs to be given more powers to effectively carry out their important work.

"And we need a new Minister that demonstrates humility and listens to the opinions and expertise of all stakeholders."

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