Break-in sparks Shatter security review

Garda chiefs will conduct a review of security arrangements for Justice Minister Alan Shatter following a break-in at his home.

A uniformed garda on patrol near Mr Shatter’s south Dublin home heard a house alarm and initiated a search for a burglar after she found the minister’s house had been broken into.

Mr Shatter is in Australia on a St Patrick’s Day visit and there was no one in the house at the time.

A review will take place in the coming week over the adequacy of security arrangements. It will assess whether a permanent garda should again be stationed at the home of the justice minister, as was the practice up to recent years.

A Department of Justice spokesperson said: “If any measures are considered necessary following a Garda investigation, those measures will be looked at.”

It is thought likely that senior officials at the department will be in contact with the Garda Commissioner’s office regarding the matter.

Senior gardaí in the Dublin Eastern Division will compile a report for the Crime and Security Branch at Garda headquarters.

The branch’s liaison and protection section assesses the security requirements for key members of the State, including ministers and the judiciary.

Currently detectives from the unit act as official drivers for the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, justice minister, and the DPP. But uniformed gardaí are no longer stationed at the homes of the Taoiseach and justice minister as used to be the case.

“There is no perceived risk on any minister from a security or terrorist point of view,” said a Garda source.

“If gardaí think there is a risk to the life of a minister or a threat to his or her life, gardaí will provide security.”

It was unclear when gardaí stopped providing home security, with some Garda sources indicating it happened under the current administration. However, a former spokesman for Dermot Ahern, who was justice minister from 2008 to early 2011, said Mr Ahern never had a garda stationed at his home.

The break-in at Mr Shatter’s home is the second such incident affecting a minister in recent months. In November, Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s family home in Limerick was burgled, with a few personal items understood to have been stolen.

However, the Department of Justice spokesperson refused to say if the review into Mr Shatter’s security arrangements would be widened to cover the rest of the Cabinet.

The department said Mr Shatter’s wife and two daughters had flown to Australia prior to the minister’s departure for a private visit to meet with family. While they attended some of the minister’s events, the cost of their travel and accommodation was met privately and not at taxpayers’ expense.

It is thought the burglar who broke into Mr Shatter’s detached home in Ballinteer at about 11.30pm on Sunday did not stay long. It is not yet clear whether anything was taken.

Local CCTV footage was examined after the break-in and gardaí circulated descriptions of the burglar. The man, aged in his early 20s, was discovered within an hour hiding nearby.

Gardaí said the indications strongly suggested the break-in was simply a burglary. The man arrested is a known burglar and it is possible he did not know who owned the house.

Officially, gardaí declined to comment specifically on the matter and confirmed only that they were investigating a burglary.

Mr Shatter last week informed the Dáil that the most recently available crime statistics — covering the third quarter of 2011 — showed a 3.2% increase in burglaries when compared with the same period the previous year.


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