GOVERNMENT backbenchers are looking to Justice Minister Alan Shatter to finally defuse the 10-day-old controversy about alleged Garda Ombudsman surveillance.
Ahead of tomorrow's Oireachtas committee hearing, many government backbenchers – but especially in Labour – have begun to quietly voice impatience with the Justice Minister's response to the issue.
They are critical of the minister's 'partial version of events' given in the Dail last week – and feel he also needlessly fuelled the public controversy at a time when both the gardai and the Ombudsman said they wanted matters resolved quietly.
The Government has ruled out opposition calls for a public inquiry into the controversy. Much now depends on how the Justice Minister handles rigorous questioning at tomorrow's hearing of the Oireachtas Public Oversight Committee.
Some government ministers are also privately frustrated at Mr Shatter's unduly combative attitude and especially his appearance on RTE's 'Prime Time' last Thursday. But all of the Labour ministers have no real choice but to publicly back the Justice Minister.
"All signs were that both the Commissioner and the Ombudsman Commission were ready to make peace. But Mr Shatter was busy still stoking things," one Labour TD told the Irish Independent.
Last night junior Foreign Affairs minister, Joe Costello of Labour, repeated his call for the Justice Minister to clarify two important matters at tomorrow's hearing relating to public interest inquiries which had been initiated.
"I fully expect the minister will do that and then the Garda Commissioner and the Ombudsman must sit down and work out protocols for the handling of future investigations," Mr Costello said.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said she looked forward to the Justice Minister clarifying matters. "People have questions arising from what he said in the Dail and he will come into the committee and answer them," Ms Burton said.
Labour leader and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore made it clear that he was fully supportive of the Justice Minister.
He brushed aside suggestions Mr Shatter had misled the Dail.
It was also clear that Labour would hold firm on refusing an independent inquiry. Both Ms Burton and Mr Costello said such a move would only result in delay and expense.