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Taoiseach as much to blame as Shatter – Gerry Adams TD

8 May, 2014 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has said that formerMinister for Justice Alan Shatter did not resign in the interest of proper administration of justice and the Garda but in the interest of Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

Speaking in the Dáil on the appointment of a new Justice Minister Mr Adams said Sinn Féin had twice voted no confidence in Alan Shatter last year and believed the resignation should have been sought by the Taoiseach a long time ago.

He said Alan Shatter's resignation was only the start of what needed to be done to restore public confidence in the administration of justice and the Gardaí.

The Sinn Féin Leader said the Government bore collective responsibility for the recent series of debacles and there was no sign that it had the appetite for the reforms that are urgently required.

He said there was now a crisis of confidence in the Taoiseach, who he accused of merely re-arranging the deck chairs, andwho, according to himself, had fully supported the outgoing Minister and had not sought his resignation.

Below is the full text of Gerry Adams address to the Dáil today:

“It is probably because of the huge majority it enjoys that there has been an unprecedented level of arrogance on the part of this Government, as seen clearly in the Taoiseach's mishandling of this entire issue.

“A Government that believes it is always right, does not listen and does not respect the Dáil or the Opposition will inevitably mishandle matters in the way they have been mishandled in this instance.

“Let us retrace briefly what has happened here. The series of scandals involving the outgoing Ministers began when the two Garda whistleblowers, John Wilson and Sergeant Maurice McCabe, raised concerns regarding practices within the upper echelons of An Garda Síochána. These two citizens should be commended by this Dáil.

“Sergeant Maurice McCabe should have had all his rights as a serving Garda restored immediately. Instead, the two whistleblowers were smeared, bullied and dismissed.

“Indeed, the former Garda Commissioner described their actions as "disgusting". The outgoing Minister, Deputy Alan Shatter, and the Commissioner tried to prevent Sergeant McCabe from giving evidence to the Committee of Public Accounts.

“Then there was the GSOC scandal, involving allegations of bugging at the offices of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission. The Taoiseach's response to that scandal was to seek to put GSOC in the dock by misrepresenting the Garda Síochána Act in such a way as to imply that GSOC was the law breaker.

“He persisted with that effort for several days, even though I corrected him in this House, before eventually and reluctantly putting the record straight. In the meantime, however, he undermined the independence and integrity of that agency.

“The Taoiseach told the Dáil there was nothing to see and we should all move on.

“Instead of establishing a commission of investigation as proposed by Sinn Féin, the Government appointed a retired judge, Mr. Justice John Cooke, to carry out a review, the terms of reference of which were set by the Government.

“Proposals by Sinn Féin's justice spokesperson, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, were ridiculed on the other side of the House. These were measured, rational propositions to depoliticise these controversies and put a transparent, independent and accountable process in place, all of which was within the authority of the Government and the former Minister.

“The Government also dismissed our proposals for a Garda authority, an ombudsman with real authority and other protocols based on the Patten experience in the North.

“What is now crystal clear is that the former Minister resigned purely and solely, as he put it himself, so as not to cause further embarrassment for Fine Gael and the Labour Party in the lead-in to the European and local government elections. Those are not my words but the Minister's own.

“Deputy Shatter did not resign in the interest of the public good or the proper administration of justice and the Garda. He resigned in the interest of Fine Gael and the Labour Party, and that is not good enough.

“Sinn Féin has twice in the past year voted no confidence in the former Minister in this House. Although I am mindful, as I said last night, of the trauma it causes for Deputy Shatter and his family, his resignation is long overdue and should have been sought by the Taoiseach a long time ago.

“This resignation is only the start of what needs to be done. There is a crisis of public confidence in the administration of justice. There also is a crisis in confidence in the Taoiseach's governance in these matters.

“He cannot blame Fianna Fáil for this, even though the issues that have arisen go back to that party's tenure. He cannot blame the Troika. This happened on the Taoiseach's watch and he followed the Fianna Fáil rule book page-by-page.

“There is widespread public support right across this State for the Garda Síochána and the essential service it provides to citizens and communities. It has unique, deep-rooted connections in local communities, connections which the Government and the former Minister have been busily dismantling through the policy of closing local Garda stations.

“However, there is no getting away from the fact that there is a culture at the top of the Garda of bad administration, poor oversight mechanisms and a lack of accountability and transparency.

“This dysfunctional culture, which I trace back to Partition and the two conservative states that were established following the counter-revolution of that time, is evident in all of the institutions of this State.

“Sinn Féin wants to see real and far-reaching reform of An Garda Síochána, similar to the changes that we helped to bring about to policing in the North. In saying this, I am not drawing comparisons between the old RUC and An Garda Síochána.

“Citizens deserve, as a right, a 21st-century, accountable policing service. No police service, no senior police officer and no Garda Commissioner should be solely accountable to any one politician, no matter who he or she is. The Commissioner should be fully accountable to an independent Garda authority.

“The new Minister has a huge responsibility and she must learn the lessons of this disastrous period. Fine Gael and the Labour Party came into office on the promise of a new way of doing business based on transparency, accountability and openness. That is why so many people are so disappointed by what has happened.

“Clearly, this Government was all about the election campaign and has shown itself to be strong on rhetoric and fine words but short on real substance.

“In regard to the controversies surrounding the bugging of the offices of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission and the whistleblowers' revelations, the Government did everything it could to undermine the integrity of the whistleblowers and nothing at all to protect the independence of GSOC.

“The former Minister, Deputy Shatter, has done some good things in his time in office. However, his disastrous handling of these issues underlines in the starkest terms possible the need in a modern democracy for robust and fully independent police oversight.

“The investigation into the bugging of GSOC's offices falls far short of what is required. It is not an independent inquiry but merely a review. It has no statutory powers, cannot call witnesses and has no powers to compel individuals to give evidence.

“The terms of reference were set by the former Minister, who claimed there was no evidence at all that GSOC was the target of a surveillance operation.

I have a certain sympathy with Deputy Shatter in this matter, but not with the Government. I can understand the instinct to protect one's Minister - that goes with the territory - but to come in here and reinforce, re-emphasise and reiterate the positions he took up is unacceptable.

The question now is whether there is a real appetite for reform in this Government. I have seen no evidence of it.

End of Take

The Taoiseach stated yesterday that he did not ask the former Minister, Deputy Shatter, to resign. If, therefore, Deputy Shatter had not resigned for party political reasons, he would still be here and those opposite would all be extolling his virtues as a Minister.

We now come to the nub of the matter. Deputy Shatter has criticised the Guerin report. Yesterday, I invited the Taoiseach - who has read the report - to state that he accepts it. Deputy Shatter is on record as stating that he has not read it in its entirety. The Taoiseach has not yet indicated whether he accepts the Guerin report. We will deal with this tomorrow.

Where is the Tánaiste? Why is he not in the Chamber? He was out defending the former Minister.

“I reiterate the point that Deputy Shatter was not acting alone. The Taoiseach took charge of matters in March when the Attorney General informed him during a telephone conversation that she did not trust the integrity of her phone and that she needed to speak to him in person in respect of a particular matter.

“She then alerted the Taoiseach to the issue of the taping of telephone calls in and out of Garda stations and he took charge.

“It is, therefore, the Taoiseach who should be resigning.

“Until the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Varadkar - as he was entitled to do -praised the actions of the whistleblowers, Labour had remained mute on this matter. It only became active in respect of it in the aftermath of the Minister's remarks.

“We wish to new Ministers well but we will not be supporting the nomination for the position of Minister for Justice and Equality because we do not believe that the Government has learned lessons from the events which led up to the resignation of the former Minister.

“The problems to which I refer will not be resolved by rearranging the deck chairs.

“At the core of all of that which we are discussing are several injustices. This is not about me, about the Taoiseach or about the former Minister. Rather, it is about those who had grievances which were not dealt with and the investigation into the murder of Madame du Plantier.

“In that context, I raised with the Taoiseach yesterday the fact that the State is still spend taxpayers' money to defend a civil action which has led to the resignation of a Minister. What we required is a genuine reforming Government and the quicker we get one the better.”

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