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Shatter and after… May 31, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
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I had to smile reading this piece from Stephen Collins in the Irish Times about Alan Shatter’s predicament and a comment or two underneath it. Now, in fairness to Collins he’s moved on from his ‘adding to the gaiety of the nation’ line of the weekend as regards the issue, and said:

Apart from the inappropriateness of Shatter’s use of confidential information from the Garda Commissioner, he has to deal with the claim he behaved improperly in not completing a random breathalyser test in 2008 or 2009.

To which the response in comments under the article was:

Corrigan100
Mark the day: Stephen Collins has called the behaviour of an FG minister “inappropriate”.

And:

ConO’Driscoll
Mirabile dictu! Must be some bigger fish needing slipping the net.

Ah, the cynicism of our citizens. No doubt a source of deep concern in governing circles.

And yet, it is an interesting point that Collin’s has had to acknowledge the problem. it’s perhaps worth – in the aftermath of the extremely predictable vote of confidence in the Dáil – surveying a few of the comment pieces over the Shatter affair. Useful reading they make too, in relation to the lorry loads of rhetoric from Enda Kenny about a ‘great reforming Minister’ offered to us in the last forty-eight hours.

Sunday Business Post

…his behaviour over the Mick Wallace affair has been disgraceful. It has diminished Shatter’s authority, damaged his credibility and demeaned his office. He obtained and cynically used confidential Garda information to damage a political opponent in debate.
But it is what appears to us to be a clear abuse of his power. There is no ministry in which the proclivity to abuse such power is more serious than the one Shatter holds.

In any other country – or at least in any country to whose standards of governance we aspire – he would have been forced to resign by now. Indeed, by the standards Shatter explicitly espoused in opposition, he would have resigned. He rightly demanded Willie O’Dea’s resignation because O’Dea had, in his words, “publicly discussed, for his own electoral gain, confidential information furnished to him by a member of An Garda Síochána” about a political opponent.

Minister Shatter’s behaviour has not just been unwise, it has been utterly unacceptable. For his own sake and that of his office, he should resign.

Irish Times: (from last week)

Mr Shatter was inappropriately briefed by gardaí and then inappropriately used what was, yes, private information. It’s no more complex than that.

The willingness of Taoiseach Enda Kenny to spring uncritically, “100 per cent” to Mr Shatter’s defence is deeply disappointing. This was not a minor spat on TV, but profoundly important questions being raised about the political abuse of the Garda with their connivance. Not a matter to be brushed aside. Mr Kenny insisted that the Minister was not “collecting files on any individual or any member of the House or anybody else”. And just as well. But no one claimed Mr Shatter was creating files.

Both Mr Shatter’s actions and his dismissive response to criticism will certainly alarm the party’s cowed backbenchers. Time to call a halt to an arrogant Minister’s contempt for democratic norms.

Sunday Independent:

The kindest interpretation of Mr Shatter’s fireside chats is that they were at best gauche. Others are casting them in a more sinister hue, for the politicisation of the gardai, particularly if consensual, is an egregious breach of the appropriate balance of powers in any functioning democracy. The “Caesar’s wife” principle means garda commissioners should exercise great care if they don’t wish to be exposed to the alternative “wives of Henry VIII” principle.
Last week, Mr Shatter grandiosely claimed his woes were caused by an “inconvenient habit of telling the truth about issues”. In the case of Mr Shatter, the main source of his troubles, however, is that we are finding out the truth about him. Thankfully, his erratic public persona has also unveiled unnerving truths about a spirit that appears to have seized certain elements of this Government. Ironically, given its embrace of a “democratic revolution”, one of the signature tunes of Fine Gael, in particular, consists of a chilly hysteria when it is exposed to the mildest criticism.
As for Mr Shatter, given that he is such a slow learner, our expectations about his capacity to stay out of trouble are low.

Irish Independent Saturday 25th May

Two simple points will suffice. Firstly, Mr Shatter in opposition would always fully and robustly pursue an issue like this. In fact, the Justice Minister is rather lucky nobody has chosen to emulate his line in past rhetoric here.
Secondly, this all arises from Mr Shatter’s own words, in a definite unforced error. Mr Shatter was well ahead in a television debate about the quashing of driver penalty points. But he could not resist gratuitously throwing out a piece of confidential information about his debating opponent.

dded to that are three important unanswered questions which arise from Mr Shatter’s own admission that he was stopped by gardai in late 2008 or early 2009. We need to know more about how and why he failed to give a sample of breath to the garda who stopped him.
We also need to know whether he was courteous to the garda in question. And we need to know if he was invoking ‘parliamentary privilege’ when he told the garda he was travelling home from the national parliament.

Former British Labour government media adviser, Alastair Campbell, has said that any minister about whom controversy continues for more than 10 days is unlikely to survive. By that yardstick, Mr Shatter would be on the Dail backbenches early next week.

He’s still there though. Damaged? Surely, but given the numbers what likelihood that he need start worrying about his position? Little or none.

And certainly none at all to judge from the tenor of the debate which is well worth a read in full if only for the amazing number of contributions like the following from Frances FitzGerald:

Previous Ministers have had opportunities to introduce these reforms but few have bothered. The reason the Minister, Deputy Shatter, bothers is not because of his widely recognised expertise in family law.He bothers because he cares about the individuals who must navigate the system, how they are treated and how the State delivers for them. There is no better example of his caring attitude towards people who were previously ignored by the State than the citizenship ceremonies he has initiated. While they may appear like a small thing, if the Deputies opposite ever visit one of these ceremonies, they will recognise that they are not a small thing for those participating and in attendance.

There’s far too much of this thinking around these days in Irish politics as a whole, a sort of ‘if intentions are good then all is beyond question’.

Comments»

1. doctorfive - May 31, 2013

In fairness to Alan Shatter he makes no effort to hide being a bollox which is more then you can for rest of them.

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doctorfive - May 31, 2013

That should be read as criticism of the rest fyi!

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2. ejh - May 31, 2013

In any other country – or at least in any country to whose standards of governance we aspire – he would have been forced to resign by now

Believe me, where I live this would be a wonder of a great deal less than ten days’ duration.

Not saying that’s right, you understand.

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3. BB - June 1, 2013

How about Shatter allegedly using anti-working-class sentiments in his encounter with the garda checkpoint? Yesterday’s Funny Friday had a comic mimic Shatter more explicitly than any politician has been mocked, as best I know. Shatter can’t do the test because he’s holding his nose to avoid the smell of the guard who is obviously from the working class and the north side!

Maybe it was partly modelled on the Conservative in England who berated some cops as proles and maybe it was also fuelled by an understandable hatred of the government! But the lack of restraint is surely unprecedented!

Fine Gael supporters will be furious! Some of the chiefs in RTE will be upset too! Shit happens …

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