Lise Hand

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Alan focuses on the big issue – himself

Published 20/06/2014|02:30

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Alan Shatter
Alan Shatter

HIS outward demeanour may have been placid and his voice measured, but make no mistake – beneath Alan Shatter's dapper suit beat a heart swollen with anger and a monstrous sense of grievance.

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A somewhat lacklustre debate on the Cooke Report into allegations of the bugging of the Garda Ombudsman office was in half-swing in the Dail chamber, when just after 3pm, the former justice minister rose from his eyrie on the backbenches and plonked himself firmly back in his favourite old haunt, The Spotlight.

For Alan didn't really want to discuss the ins and outs of the Cooke Report. Instead, he wanted to hone in on a far more important topic – himself. Or, more accurately, he wished to ventilate his opinions on the parts in the earlier report by barrister Sean Guerin into the handling of garda whistleblower claims which pertained to his own role in the unfortunate chain of events.

After some preliminary skirmishes in which he took a few swipes at GSOC as a warm-up, he then unleashed the main act, observing how Judge Guerin had completed his investigations in nine-and-a-half weeks. "I believe I am entitled to know, as are members of the House, why the Guerin Report was so hastily and prematurely completed in comparison to the approach and time taken to complete the Cooke Report," stated Alan.

"My accusation is that of a fundamentally flawed preliminary inquiry and report and an unprecedented rush to judgment. As a prosecuting counsel, Mr Guerin must know that the manner in which he conducted his role and some of the conclusions reached by him would not withstand court scrutiny," he charged.

For over the 20 minutes allocated to him to speak, Alan read from his 11-page script. Bitterness poured forth from every paragraph. He lashed out at Sean Guerin at every turn, excoriating the senior counsel for not interviewing him as part of his inquiries and thus giving him the opportunity to give his side of the story on how he dealt with the information supplied by garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

"I believe these conclusions reached by him to be substantially outside the remit of his terms of reference. The result, in my case, of the Guerin Report, was to render my continuing as minister untenable and as a consequence I resigned my position," he said. "That is done."

Yes, that is done. But clearly – as far as Alan Shatter is concerned – it's far from over and done with. He stood in the chamber, picking at the unhealed scabs covering his deeply wounded ego. He believed in the basic principles of constitutional and natural justice. "To ignore them is to endorse the creation of kangaroo courts as dramatically depicted in Kafka's book, 'The Trial'," he declared.

It's inevitable that the former justice minister should identify with the central hero of any drama, but it was startling to hear him invoking the character known as 'K' – a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority for a crime never revealed to him.

Perhaps if he feels so persecuted and at the mercy of a remote authority, he could identify with Sgt Maurice McCabe instead.

But then Alan Shatter is Special K, a man who regards himself wronged by the findings of Sean Guerin.

The trouble is that nobody else believes he is Special K. He delivered his jeremiad to an almost-empty chamber.

In front of him sat his successor, a stony-faced Frances Fitzgerald, and Chief Whip Paul Kehoe, while across the floor sat one single member of the Opposition, Clare Daly, who sporadically shook her head in disbelief.

That was it. Not so long ago, the seats would have been full of colleagues in a show of solidarity. Now his words fell on deaf ears simply because during his time in office, Alan burned so many more bridges than he built.

He described Sean Guerin's role as one of "investigator, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner", but the truth is not so Kafkaesque.

In the end, Alan Shatter's worst enemy was Alan Shatter.

Lise Hand

Irish Independent

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