No Justice – for Minister of Justice

[First published by The Clare People on March 26, 2019]

By Madeleine Taylor-Quinn

Baying for political blood in Dáil Éireann is not uncommon, but baying for justice is a rarified activity. Where is the courage to stand up for fair play and natural justice in the Houses of the Oireachtas? A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court found that the conclusions of the Guerin Report to Government in 2014 that led to Alan Shatter’s resignation as Minister for Justice “were reached in breach of Mr Shatter’s constitutional rights and right to fair procedures”.  Further conclusions of the Supreme Court stated that the Guerin Report was “damaging to the reputation of Mr Shatter”. This is the latest chapter following Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe’s complaints to the Department of Justice. On foot of his complaints, the Government commissioned Mr Guerin to do a scoping report on a fairly tight time limit. Following publication of that report, Mr Shatter resigned as Minister of Justice because the Taoiseach could not express confidence in him.  In February 2015, the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation was established. It concluded that Shatter dealt “properly and truthfully with Garda-related matters”. O’Higgins totally contradicted Guerin’s findings and stated that his findings are incompatible with adverse findings made against Shatter by Guerin Report. O’Higgins cleared Shatter of any wrongdoing in his handling of allegations of Garda corruption and malpractice. Following on from that, the Government withdrew the Guerin Report from its website and the Taoiseach made a statement correcting the Dáil record. Shatter took a case to the High Court and lost and then appealed to the Court of Appeal in 2017 and won. It found that  “the seriously damaging conclusions of the Guerin Report were reached in breach of fair procedures”. It must be recalled that Guerin never spoke to or interviewed Shatter, nor gave him an opportunity to rebut or explain any allegations made in the report. Following the Court of Appeal decision, Guerin appealed to the Supreme Court. His appeal was rejected and it found in favour of Shatter, stating, “The conclusions expressed and the impressions thereby created by the Guerin Report were damaging to the reputation of Alan Shatter.” The above list of the O’Higgins Commission of Investigation, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court have all found that an injustice was done to Alan Shatter. The question begs – has justice been seen to be done? He lost his job as Minister for Justice, and it was widely accepted that he was a good and reforming minister. He subsequently lost his Dáil seat. So where is the justice? Has he received an apology and, if not, why not? Who in the Oireachtas has stood up and highlighted the wrong done to a former colleague? We heard a lot of baying for his blood in 2014 – where have all those voices gone now that they know that a serious injustice has been done? Following the Supreme Court decision, I waited with bated breath for recognition of the injustice done to emanate from the corridors of Leinster House. Looks like one should not hold one’s breath. The Constitution sets out to treat all of its citizens equally. Do some in the Oireachtas believe that this does not apply to elected representatives? We can only deduct from their silence that such is the case. Perhaps we should be hopeful in our expectation of someone within the Oireachtas finding moral courage to state it as it is, and extend at least an apology to Alan Shatter for the wrong done to him. Do we have to search for honour, decency and fair play?  Are these traits no longer endemic within us?  Maybe Benjamin Disraeli had it in one when he said, “Damn your principles! Stick to your party!”

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