News Analysis

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Shatter puts boot in one last time, slamming door on way out

Published 23/05/2014 | 02:30

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CEO and founder of the Jack & Jill Children's Foundation & his wife & Co-Founder, Senator Mary-Ann O'Brien with former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
CEO and founder of the Jack & Jill Children's Foundation & his wife & Co-Founder, Senator Mary-Ann O'Brien with former Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

RELAXING over coffee in the environs of Leinster House in 2010, former Justice Minister Alan Shatter cast a series of less than flattering verdicts on the men whose shoes he would fill.

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Lying in wait on the opposition backbenches, Mr Shatter said that then Justice Minister Dermot Ahern took personal pleasure in being "as uncooperative and obnoxious as is possible across the Dail chamber and indeed with his political protagonists".

Minister for Children Barry Andrews was a "political decoration", the family law solicitor told Kevin Doyle, the 'Evening Herald' political reporter at the time.

Mr Shatter's greatest venom, or vomit as it turned out, was reserved for Michael McDowell, the former Attorney General, Justice Minister and Tanaiste.

"I constantly try and restrain myself from vomiting when I see media articles written about this individual [McDowell] of great superior intelligence," said Shatter, adding that McDowell was "economically illiterate".

Mr Shatter's own great superior intelligence was on full display yesterday when he hijacked the Government on the eve of critical local and European elections.

Earlier this week, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar refused to apply pressure on Mr Shatter to waive his right to a €70,000 ministerial severance package, even though it was dominating conversations on the doorstep.

"I don't want to kick a man when he's down," said Mr Varadkar.

But it was Alan Shatter who delivered an almighty kick to the Cabinet and the Coalition that had steadfastly stood by him – even as controversy after controversy continued to dog his tenure as Justice Minister.

True to form, Mr Shatter, who was forced from office over his handling of garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe's allegations, said he was doing "extraordinarily well" since resigning.

"I am going nowhere," he trumpeted as he revealed his audacious scheme – taking his severance pay (which he is legally entitled to) and donating it to Jack and Jill, the children's charity.

No one would deny Jack and Jill vital funds.

But only in the Shattersphere could the dubious act of taking ministerial severance pay, after legislating to vote it out of existence, be converted into a moral victory.

Oh so clever, and how intellectually superior of him to summons the world at large to the Oireachtas plinth to announce his stunning scoop.

For days, Mr Shatter dithered, and in doing so poured contempt over the electorate and his colleagues in all parties who were desperately seeking to engage voters on serious issues.

Fine Gael and Labour had voted to axe ministerial severances and the law had been passed.

All it required was the stroke of a pen to bring it into effect.

But Mr Shatter, a distinguished lawyer to boot, could not bring himself to honour the letter of the law he championed.

It would, as he says himself, make you vomit.

We are all guilty, from time to time, of holding politicians and the political process in ridicule and contempt.

But, as Alan Shatter once said, the holding of political office is both a burden and a privilege.

And we should all applaud candidates of all colours who are placing themselves before the crowd despite the climate of anger in the wake of a series of austerity budgets.

Today citizens will exercise their patriotic duty to vote for a better Ireland.

Alan Shatter's antics have no place in that Ireland.

Irish Independent

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