Irish justice minister Alan Shatter quits after criticism in report

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 May, 2014, 9:22pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 May, 2014, 9:22pm


Ireland's justice minister has resigned, in a surprise blow to the country's three-year-old coalition government, after a state-ordered investigation concluded that he mishandled the complaints of a police corruption whistle-blower.

Alan Shatter said on Wednesday that he was quitting to ease criticism of the government when the report is published later this week.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who received the report on Tuesday night, announced the news to the audible gasps of lawmakers in Ireland's parliament. Many opposition politicians had called for Shatter to resign, but it is rare in Ireland for any politician to quit in the face of scandal.

Kenny said he accepted Shatter's resignation with regret, but said the report had found that Shatter responded inadequately to complaints of police corruption made by a serving officer, Maurice McCabe. Ireland's police commander, Martin Callinan, resigned in March over the same scandal.

Shatter was regarded as Kenny's most intelligent, hard-working and reform-minded minister. But he suffered from unpopularity due, at least in part, to a perceived holier-than-thou manner and refusal to apologise for mistakes.

Even in his resignation letter, Shatter admitted no wrongdoing and instead slated the report as biased and incomplete. He noted that the investigator, lawyer Sean Guerin, did not interview him and should have, and had also failed to obtain any documents from Ireland's police complaints watchdog, a central protagonist in the subject under investigation.

Shatter was accused of defending Ireland's police force at the expense of both the watchdog agency and McCabe. The officer has been ostracised by some police colleagues since filing complaints that the system for applying traffic tickets was rife with corruption, involving the systemic "disappearance" of fines and penalties for celebrities, top businesspeople and others with high political connections.

Shatter himself benefited when, stopped at a checkpoint screening drivers for alcohol, he avoided taking a test by claiming his asthma prevented him from blowing into the device.