Monday 29 December 2014

Flailing rivals lack hard evidence to punch Shatter into political wilderness

Gerard O'Regan

Published 01/03/2014 | 02:30

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Photo: Tony Gavin
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter. Photo: Tony Gavin

In boxing parlance Micheal Martin – with some help from muscular Mick Wallace – kept pummelling away. In the opposite corner was Alan Shatter, rolling with some of the blows, feinting subtly when in a tight corner, sometimes with that wry grin on his face.

His has been a classic street fighter approach in recent days. Let them throw whatever they have in his direction. Once fatigue set in – he would then mount a vicious counterattack.

No better man for getting up close and personal. Despite the outward suave sophistication, Shatter has shown he can mix it politically when it comes to bare-knuckle stuff.

Martin had started the bout well earlier in the week. He gesticulated and held various bunches of paper in the air. It was good for dramatic effect. But were any of his punches really hurting his opponent?

With howls for his resignation coming from all sides, some might have harboured the idea Shatter might leave the ring, a defeated and broken man.

But there was never a hope in hell of that happening.

It is not in his DNA to throw in the towel even if he's in the tightest of tight corners. And certainly not when his opponents can't land a killer blow.

And, in any case, Enda Kenny would have none of it.

Even the Labour camp is fully aware that if Micheal succeeded in taking Alan out in such a public arena, it just might herald the death throes of this Government.

No wonder Pat Rabbitte, one of the grand old men of the party, perched himself consolingly right beside the Justice Minister when Shatter made his up and at 'em Dail speech.

And so Shatter decided to box clever. He would be restrained – but would also counterattack with some vicious verbal swipes. He knew a now weary public were getting increasingly jaded, from claim and counterclaim, from innuendo and allegation, from the whiff of dark deeds and dirty tricks.

But did his opponents have enough for a knock-out punch that would finish him off good and proper? Shatter knew they hadn't got it.

So he decided to go for Micheal Martin big time – with plenty of caustic semi-personal stuff.

The idea was to flush him out. Maybe provoke him to wave some more papers in the air. Shatter could handle that as long as his opponents lacked the all-decisive sucker-punch.

As the jabbing continued, Martin's face mirrored a growing sense of rage. He now seemed to feel on the back foot. Inevitably, when he got his chance, he went into full attack mode.

There were more angry gesticulations. He landed some good verbal digs against Shatter, but nothing strong enough to remove the look of sheer disdain for the Fianna Fail leader etched on the face of the Justice Minister.

It all became too much for Mick Wallace, seething on the backbenches He got really personal – and very very angry.

There were suggestions that Shatter has an especially dismissive attitude to TDs like Wallace, who have long hair, shaggy jeans, and perhaps the odd dangling ear ring.

Wallace's outrage threatened to almost overwhelm him as he shouted across the chamber at the Justice Minister, whose demeanour now veered between inscrutable and insolent.

But when Wallace sat down, frustrated and still in a rage, Shatter visibly relaxed. He had carried the day – at least for now.

And so the now interminable GSOCITIS debate continues. But if anecdotal evidence, including an opinion poll, is to be believed, it is leaving the vast majority of voters seriously underwhelmed.

Despite all the cross-party sniping, some basic truisms remain.

The first is that if the Ombudsman's office was bugged, then the central question is who did it, and for what motive? Very much a political point and an aside are the views of Dail deputies on how much power this office should have over the gardai.

The other central issue in this entire controversy is that all allegations of garda wrongdoing – coming from whistleblowers or anybody else – have to be subject to legal due process.

In very simple terms, all suggested wrongdoers are completely innocent until they are proven guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.

Therefore, in the absence of such clear-cut guilty verdicts, Shatter was able to take out any of his opponents, who would dearly love to punch him into the political wilderness.

At the end of this week's brawl in the Dail, maybe Micheal and Mick should look at a rerun of that famous 'Rumble In The Jungle' boxing match, between Muhammed Ali and George Foreman.

The ever-crafty Ali in the beginning of the fight soaked up everything his powerful opponent could throw at him.

Then, when Foreman had worn himself out with all that flailing effort, Ali went in for the kill – and dispatched him to oblivion.

Irish Independent

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