Kenny: Anti-semitic abuse of Shatter 'a new low'

By Mary Regan, Political Editor

The Taoiseach has said things have "sunk to a new low" after revealing that the Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, was the victim of anti-semitic abuse.

Enda Kenny told the Dáil that he wanted to bring to the attention of the Dáil: "This morning, at the home of the Minister for Justice, an incident occurred where an item in the post contained some anti-semitic material and a substance which, when analysed, was harmless."

He said a "stream of similar material" has been sent to the Department, telling the Dáil: "Irrespective of the rough and tumble we have here in our politics, I'm sure that you will all deplore that."

Mr Kenny said that members of the Jewish faith have represented Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour over the years "and this has sunk to a new low."

He said: "It's not in order that the sort of anti-semitic material is being received by somebody who happens to belong to a particular religion in our country, irrespective of the challenges that we have here."

It comes ahead of a vote on a no-confidence motion in Mr Shatter later this evening. Mr Shatter said last night that the opposition had portrayed him as "public enemy number one."

The Taoiseach revealed details of the personal attacks on the home of the Minister at the start of Leaders' Questions this morning where he came under further scrutiny over his claim that neither he nor the Justice Minister had seen a March 10 letter sent to the Department by the Garda Commission outlining concerns over phone bugging at garda stations, until two weeks later.

Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, said this account was at odds with a statement issued by the Secretary General of the Department, Brian Purcell, last night, in which he said he briefed Mr Shatter on the matter on Monday night, 24 March.

Both Mr Shatter and Mr Kenny have repeatedly insisted that they did not received the letter util the Tuesday, despite holding a meeting on the Monday night with Mr Purcell.

"I should have been told about that letter," Mr Kenny said. "The Minister didn't see the letter, the Minister wasn't aware of the letter. The Minister wasn't briefed on the contents of the letter, he was briefed on the issues that had arisen."

But Mr Martin asked: "How could he [Mr Purcell] brief him [Mr Shatter] on the matter, without briefing him on the letter? It is just not credible, it is just not credible, Taoiseach."

The Fianna Fáil leader said the account was particularly incredible because Mr Purcell was sent by the Taoiseach later that Monday night to the home of the then Garda Commission to express cabinet unease about the issue of phone bugging.

"The inescapable conclusion that the Commission was the scapegoat to protect the Minister," he said.

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