The Government has been accused of letting former justice minister Alan Shatter "muzzle" a Dáil debate about a statutory inquiry into alleged Garda malpractice through legal threats.
A Dáil debate on the commission of investigation into the Cavan/ Monaghan Garda division was scrapped yesterday after claims by the Ceann Comhairle it was before the courts and out of order.
Mr Shatter has launched an action to overturn the Guerin inquiry which led to his resignation and preempted the commission’s set up.
Opposition parties and TDs walked out of the Dáil yesterday and claimed Mr Shatter’s intervention in the debate about the probe had essentially muzzled the Oireachtas.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said it was “bizarre and unacceptable” that a motion be passed to have the inquiry without any debate allowed.
The inquiry has been set up following whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe’s allegations of Garda wrongdoing in the district.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny explained that lawyers for Mr Shatter had written to Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett as far back as last November on the issue. Mr Barrett then wrote to Frances Fitzgerald, the justice minister, this week, saying that the debate could not go ahead as some matters were sub judice (under judgment).
Mr Kenny also said Mr Shatter’s solicitors had asked for any reference to ‘Minister for Justice and Equality’ to be removed from the inquiry’s terms. Mr Kenny said the decision on the debate could not be deferred and he would not object to the Ceann Comhairle’s ruling.
But responding, Mr Martin said: “One could accuse deputy Shatter of, as minister, having tried to silence whistleblowers for long enough, but it is not acceptable that a member of the house should try to muzzle the house itself through this type of legal manoeuvering.”
Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, and Independent TDs then staged a walkout from the Dáil. TDs said they wanted all the correspondence between Mr Shatter or his legal representatives, the Ceann Comhairle, and the office of the Taoiseach released.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said: “The actions of the Taoiseach in the Dáil today were a complete farce and that’s why I called upon the Opposition to withdraw. He persisted in a bull-headed way and used his majority to push this through without debate.”
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