Ahern accused of being a 'political gurrier'

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern is a political gurrier who is unfit to hold office, it was claimed in the Dáil today.

Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter made the remarks under parliamentary privilege after listening to Mr Ahern speak during a day-long debate on the Morris Tribunal’s eight reports.

Defence Minister Willie O’Dea demanded that Mr Shatter withdraw the allegations but the Opposition TD refused and later called on Mr Ahern to resign.

Beginning his contribution to the debate, Mr Shatter said: “Mr Ahern is a political gurrier of the highest order and is unfit to hold ministerial office.”

Mr Shatter also recalled that Mr Ahern investigated complaints against disgraced former Fianna Fáil TD Ray Burke in the 1990s but found nothing untoward.

Minister of State Martin Mansergh described the Fine Gael TD’s remarks as “grossly politically partisan”.

Earlier, Labour Party justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte also branded Mr Ahern as “lazy and petty” over his response to the Morris Tribunal’s findings.

The Justice Minister had opened the debate today by criticising whistle blowers Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins and Labour TD Brendan Howlin for trumping up wild allegations against senior gardai.

In his speech to the debate, Mr Howlin claimed that Mr Ahern’s speech was “spiteful, mean-spirited and unfortunately characteristic”.

The Morris Tribunal, which was the state’s longest running inquiry on garda corruption, published the final two of its eight reports earlier this month.

The probe began its sittings in March 2003 and heard evidence from more than 1,000 witnesses over 685 days until it concluded in December 2007.

The inquiry focused on the Garda investigation into the death of cattle dealer Richie Barron, in Raphoe, Co Donegal in October 1996.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said the people of the country owed the whistle blowers a debt of gratitude for bringing the original allegations to the attention of then Justice Minister John O’Donoghue.

Mr Ahern earlier said in his speech to the debate that Mr Higgins and Mr Howlin acted irresponsibly by not checking out baseless allegations made to them about Assistant Commissioners Tony Hickey and Kevin Carty, or disclosing the source.

“The allegations were so grave that there was much more at stake than their professional reputations,” he said.

“If true, the allegations meant that a number of persons had been wrongfully convicted and were perhaps wrongfully imprisoned because of evidence that had been unlawfully obtained or planted with the connivance and approval of some of the most senior members of our national police service.”

He added: “Despite the gravity of the allegations and their potentially ruinous effects, neither Deputy Howlin nor Deputy Higgins was willing to reveal his source to either the Garda assistant commissioner appointed to investigate the matter following the intervention of then Minister, Deputy John O’Donoghue, or to the tribunal itself.”

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