Saturday 20 December 2014

'Special' status may be the undoing of Shatter

Being the court favourite can be a risky business for both king and subject

Published 06/04/2014 | 02:30

Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Taoiseach Enda Kenny

THE Fine Gael TDs and ministers may have been happy habitues of the Dail bar after last week's defeated motion of no confidence in Alan Shatter. However, before they and Enda celebrate too long, and not at all wisely, they might do well to quell their Bourbon tendencies and remember that history tells us far greater troubles were caused by court 'favourites' rather than famine or wars or pestilence or taxes.

Of course, it was often a risky business being the king's favourite, but, discontent over favourites – and wives for that matter – has lost many a king his head as well.

In the case of Louis XVI, for example it was Marie Antoinette and the lethal 'let them eat cake' remark that did for that particular beheaded king rather than his fiscal policies.

It is a bit of a journey from Marie Antoinette to Alan Shatter, but, last week may yet be seen as that tipping point where Enda Kenny began to be politically poisoned by his association with Alan Shatter.

In particular, Kenny's 'friends' are wondering after the loss of a Confidential Recipient and a Garda Commissioner, just how many more mandarins will have to be tossed over the side of the ship of state to feed the ever-gathering pack of sharks.

Though the Taoiseach maintained a staunch if somewhat chillier defence of Shatter, it is starting to become evident that Shatter's 'special' relationship' to Kenny is starting to follow a terribly familiar path.

The beginning of the road to perdition is traditionally signalled by initial very modest expressions of 'concern' within the court that the Dear Leader or king is too close to a certain 'favourite'.

While it will, of course, be swiftly noted that there is nothing wrong in a 'Dear Leader' having favourites if their talents merit it, the problem which can sometimes arise is that 'Dear Leaders', if they are in a particular state of delusion, will sacrifice almost anything and anyone for their favourites.

Sadly, such protection often tends to accentuate any bad qualities a favourite may possess, for if they are favoured too much, favourites tend to become spoilt and arrogant.

Happily, this is not applicable to the modest Alan Shatter, but, we will note that should such a point be reached, the mood may turn against our 'Dear Leader'.

Suddenly the point is made that seeing as he is the one who anointed this source of trouble, if the no-longer-so 'Dear Leader' continues to follow the irrational path of keeping our favourite in situ, he, rather than the despised favourite, is to blame for the general unhappiness.

Once that point has been reached, almost inevitably – unless our 'Dear Leader' is so in love with his 'special one' that he is prepared to lose his head – the candle of our favourite's time in the sun will gutter and die in seconds.

Though he continues to be one of the Taoiseach's favourite sons, such precedents are ominous for Alan Shatter. It is bad enough that little in Enda Kenny's career suggests that he is that sort of innocent 'Dear Leader' that would lay down his life for a mere Cabinet underling.

The worse news for Shatter is that rather like our tale about court 'favourites', the Fine Gael 'Dear Leader is veering perilously close to the territories where he, rather than Shatter, is being blamed for the debacles that bedevil the justice minister.

A great deal of political outsourcing went on in the Shatter blame game last week as Labour noted the frolics of the justice minister is Enda Kenny's problem whilst the Fine Gael ministers said very little at all.

The Fine Gael silence and Labour warnings that it was time for the Taoiseach to start considering the 'reputational damage being done to the government' sent out one clear message amidst the current miasma of confusion.

The isolated Alan Shatter is now Enda Kenny's problem to such an extent the Taoiseach's own political credit now stands or falls with that of his political 'favourite'.

Far from being out the door, Shatter's troubles may only have just begun, for if he is not considering his position carefully, Enda Kenny most assuredly is.

Sunday Independent

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