Former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said he still does not understand why Government-commissioned barrister Seán Guerin went outside his terms of reference in his report into allegations of Garda misconduct by Sgt Maurice McCabe.
The Guerin report had said that Mr Shatter did not heed concerns raised by Garda whistleblower Sergeant McCabe. However, the subsequent O'Higgins Commission found Mr Shatter had treated Sgt McCabe's concerns "very seriously".
“To this day I don’t understand why he went outside his terms of reference,” Mr Shatter told RTE radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.
“It is beyond time for an apology; first, he needs to explain himself.”
In February this year, the Supreme Court granted a declaration that certain conclusions of Mr Guerin were made outside the scope of the task set to him and were not subject of any notice to, or representations by, Mr Shatter.
Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell held that the “expression of conclusions” exceeded the scope of the preliminary inquiry Mr Guerin was authorised to carry out. Had they been preceded by asking Mr Shatter for his views, it would not have been appropriate to grant any relief, he added.
He stressed he was “far from critical” of Mr Guerin who carried out his task with “great thoroughness and admirable expedition”. The terms of reference of Mr Guerin’s inquiry were “not clear cut” and it would be “very desirable” in the future to have “absolute clarity” as to the legal nature of tasks to be performed. The difficulty of Mr Guerin’s task was compounded by a “surprising lack of communication” within the Department of Justice, he added.
Mr Shatter said today that Mr Guerin had been given the responsibility to conduct a preliminary inquiry, but had gone beyond that with no explanation.
“This is an issue that needs to be addressed. Nobody has dealt with this particular issue.
Mr Shatter today also expressed his disappointment with how he had been treated by then Taoiseach Enda Kenny. “I expected better from him. He ignored my concerns; there was no due process.”
He said that at times following the publication of the Guerin Report he felt he was “living in an alternate universe. I was constantly vilified in the media until the O’Higgins report came out.”
He said the level of vitriol and anti-semitic commentary at the time had astonished him. “You start doubting anyone is going to believe you. It was an extraordinarily stressful period.
“I had hoped that when the O’Higgins report came out that Sean Guerin would acknowledge that he made mistakes, but there were three more years of this. It doesn’t matter how resilient or thick-skinned a creature you are, this all created a great deal of pressure.”
When asked about the controversy surrounding Fine Gael TD Maria Bailey this week, Mr Shatter said: “She may have made a bad judgement, (but) we don’t publicly stone people here. I didn’t think it necessary for every member of the Cabinet to excoriate her.
“There are far more important issues than that at a time when the defence forces are in crisis, yet this issue has dominated the air waves for eight days.”
Additional reporting by Ann O'Loughlin