A long saga of scandal, corruption and the abuse of power came to a sudden end today with the announcement that the 26 County Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has resigned.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed to the Dublin parliament this afternoon that Minister Shatter had quit following a report from retired judge Sean Guerin into allegations made by Garda police whistleblower, Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
The Taoiseach said he accepted Minister Shatter’s resignation “with reluctance”. He denied he had asked Shatter to quit.
It is understood the Guerin report is strongly critical of the Justice Department as well as a number of other agencies.
But it is just the latest ina long litany of controversies centring on the Minister and Garda chief Martin Callinan, who left his post in March.
Earlier this week, independent TD Mick Wallace announced he was pursing legal action against Shatter following comments the former Justice Minister made on live television about the Independent TD last year. The Data Protection Commissioner said the Minister had broken the law by revealing confidential police details about the TD.
Other scandals in which the Minister played a role ranged from the wholesale and systemic corruption of the 26 County state’s handling of motoring offences, to the subversion of civil and legal rights in the Garda tape recording scandal.
Shatter also enjoyed a reputation as an unbending and belligerent Minister, who, rather than accept criticism, sought to destroy his critics. The independent TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace were the focus of much venom, while two police whistleblowers who sought to address corruption within the Gardai were subjected to sustained hostility under his watch.
Whistleblower John Wilson said today he took “no pleasure in the demise of any human being or anyone losing their job, but he [Shatter] had to go”.
He said: “At the time of the resignation of Garda Commissioner Callinan I said that united they stood and united they fall.
“We will see the Guerin report in the next few days. I have been supportive of Garda Sgt Maurice McCabe for years and called for a full independent tribunal of inquiry into the alleged malpractice and now we finally have one.
“He [Shatter] couldn’t have remained in his position and should have gone a long time ago. He minimised our allegations and was forced to correct himself and the Dail record about incorrect statements about Maurice McCabe and myself not co-operating with the O’Mahony investigation. He had to go,” he said.
Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Justice and Equality Padraig Mac Lochlainn said that Shatter’s resignation was “long overdue” and that the lessons of the Minister’s disastrous tenure must be learned.
“The crisis in public confidence in the administration of justice must be urgently addressed by this government and by the incoming Minister,” he said.
“We need to see the implementation of a new independent policing authority accountable to an independent policing board, the Oireachtas [parliament] and to local Joint Policing Committees.
“Further, the Garda Siochana 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.”