Born in Dublin in 1951, Alan Shatter was first elected to the Dáil in 1981 as a Fine Gael T.D.and was re-elected at each subsequent election until he lost his seat in the 2002 general election. He was re-elected at the 2007 general election. Shatter was a member of Dublin County Council from 1979 to 1999 for the Rathfarnham area.
He was Fine Gael Front Bench spokesperson on Law Reform (1982, 1987–88); the Environment (1989–91); Labour (1991); Justice (1992–93); Equality and Law Reform (1993–94); Health and Children (1997–2000); Justice, Law Reform and Defence (2000–02); Children (2007–10); and Justice and Law Reform (2010–11).
On 9 March 2011, Shatter was appointed by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny as bothMinister for Justice and Equality and Minister for Defence.
Under Shatter’s steerage, a substantial reform agenda was implemented with nearly 30 separate pieces of legislation published, many of which are now enacted including the Personal Insolvency Act 2012, Criminal Justice Act 2011, DNA Database Act, and the Human Rights and Equality Commission Act.
Under his guidance, major reforms were introduced in 2011 into Ireland’s citizenship laws and a new Citizenship Ceremony was created. Shatter both devised and piloted Ireland’s first ever citizenship ceremony which took place in June 2011 and a new inclusive citizenship oath which he included in his reforming legislation. During his time as Minister, he cleared an enormous back log of citizenship applications and 69,000 foreign nationals became Irish citizens. Some applications had lain dormant for 3 to 4 years. He introduced a general rule that save where there was some real complication, all properly made citizenship applications should be processed within a six month period. Shatter also took steps to facilitate an increased number of political refugees being accepted into Ireland and created a special scheme to facilitate relations of Syrian families already resident in Ireland who were either caught up in the civil war in Syria, or in refugee camps elsewhere as a result of the civil war in Syria, to join their families in Ireland.
Shatter had enacted legislation before the end of July 2011 to facilitate access to financial documentation and records held by third parties in investigations into banking scandals and white collar crime. The legislation was first used by the Gardaí in September 2011.
During Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2013, he chaired the Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) meetings and, in January 2013, in Dublin Castle, the meeting of EU Defence Ministers Under his guidance, Ireland played a more active role than in the past in EU defence matters and in deepening Ireland’s participation in NATO’s partnership for peace. During the Irish Presidency, substantial progress was made at the European Union level in the adoption and development of new legislation and measures across a broad range of Justice and Home Affairs issues.
Shatter implemented substantial reform in the Department of Defence and restructured the Irish Defence Forces. He is a strong supporter of the Irish Defence Forces participation in international peacekeeping and humanitarian engagements and is an expert on the Middle East. As a member of the Irish Parliament and as Minister on many occasions, he visited Irish troops participating in UN missions in the Middle East. Under his watch contracts were signed for the acquisition of 2 new naval vessels with an option to purchase a third. All three naval vessels are now part of the Irish naval service and have been actively engaged in recent years in rescuing from drowning refugees in the Mediterranean attempting to enter Europe.
As Minister for Defence he enacted legislation to grant a pardon and an amnesty to members of the Irish defence forces who deserted during World War 2 to fight on the allied side against Nazi Germany and gave a state apology for their post war treatment by the Irish State.
He was the minister responsible for two amendments to the Constitution of Ireland which were passed in referendums: the Twenty-ninth Amendment in 2011 to allow for the reduction of judges’ pay, and the Thirty-third Amendment in 2013 to establish a Court of Appeal. Just prior to his resignation from government the draft legislation to create the court was published and the court was established and sitting by October 2014.
The jurisdictions of the courts were extended for the first time in 20 years and the maximum civil damages payable for the emotional distress of bereaved relations following a negligent death was increased.
Educated at The High School, Trinity College and at the Europa Institute of the University of Amsterdam, Shatter was a partner in the Dublin law firm Gallagher Shatter (1977-2011). As a solicitor he acted as advocate in many seminal and leading cases determined both by the Irish High and Supreme Courts. He is the author of one the major academic works on Irish family law (1977, 1981, 1986 and 1997) which advocated substantial constitutional and family law reform.
As a politician he played a lead role in effecting much of the constitutional and legislative change he advocated. He is a former chairperson of FLAC (the Free Legal Advice Centres), a former chairperson of CARE, an organisation that campaigned for child care and children’s legislation reform in the 1970s and a former President of the Irish Council Against Blood Sports.
He was a founder member of the Irish Soviet Jewry Committee in 1970 and pioneered a successful all party Dáil motion on the plight of Soviet Jewry (1984), and visited various refuseniks in. Moscow in 1985. Shatter was a former chairperson of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee (1996-97) and initiated the creation of an Ireland/ Israel Parliamentary Friendship group in 1997 leading a number of visits to Israel by members of the Dáil & Seanad.
Alan is the author of the satirical book Family Planning Irish Style (1979), and the novel Laura (1989). In 2017 his biography Life is a Funny Business was published by Poolbeg Press and in 2019 Frenzy and Betrayal: The Anatomy of a Political Assassination was published by Merrion Press