Minister Alan Shatter must be replaced
Published 30/03/2014 | 02:30
One of the invisible iron laws of politics is that crises which do not end cause the fall of governments. The more imperious Fine Gael elements of our Coalition may think the scale of their majority means they are immune to such rules. They would do well, however, to consider the fate of the Reynolds Coalition that fell over a scandal which carried the weight of a feather. In contrast, the ongoing debacle surrounding the Government's relationship with the gardai raises fundamental questions as to whether Ireland is actually fit for self-governance. Such has been the deterioration of confidence in this Government that citizens are already becoming nostalgic for the golden age of the Troika. The Coalition would do well to ask that, if such sentiments are widespread, how long will it be before the voters develop an itch for a Fianna Fail restoration, or a Sinn Fein revolution.
Despite the fact that he is the one who resigned, the Garda Commissioner is already in a far happier place than his lucky political boss. Like Shakespeare's Coriolanus, nothing became Martin Callinan more than his exile and resignation. The two most important character traits that a public servant can have are character and authority. Mr Callinan may have been an imperfect politician, but, when he believed the future of his force was best served by resignation, the former commissioner fell upon his sword. The contrast with his bickering political boss should be stark enough for Mr Kenny to consider just how much damage will be done to his own political reputation if he sticks with Mr Shatter
The most regrettable feature of the current status of the gardai as a force in crisis is its utter predictability. A series of stark tribunal warnings that elements of the gardai were behaving like an unarmed militia has inspired a political response of cowardly indolence from an establishment intent on dying in its slippers. Sadly the Coalition is not merely reaping the harvest but actually adding to the flames, as an administration accused of the attempted undermining of garda whistleblowers to shore up the commissioner now finds itself being accused of attempting to undermine the commissioner to save the minister. One salient consequence of Mr Shatter's many misjudgements is that his political bankruptcy casts serious doubts over his capacity to drive through such necessary reforms as Labour's proposed Garda Inspectorate. This weakness means that, far from being resolved, the time may actually only be coming where Mr Kenny may have to sharpen his sword for Mr Shatter to preserve a simulacrum of authority. Minister Shatter should go, and a minister with credibility, such as Leo Varadkar, should replace him immediately.
The Prime Time expose on the chaotic state of our ambulance services may have been overshadowed by the ongoing national drama over our equally dysfunctional justice system. Its revelations about the devastating effects of stealth cuts and mismanagement within a service describing itself as the 'best in the world' contain two critical lessons. Governance of the Irish health system in the wake of a series of debacles from Hepatitis C to the HSE is still not fit for purpose. In a media world where respect increasingly is only applied to Twitter, screen-grabs and social media, the Prime Time expose reminds us that the foundation of journalism consists of that which is of interest to the public whilst being driven by the public interest. It is a lesson many could do with learning.