Shatter tattered beyond repair
As the Opposition publicly speculated last week about how many public servants would have to be sacrificed to protect the political hide of the Justice Minister, privately his coalition colleagues were wondering if the Government may be the ultimate sacrificial victim of Alan Shatter's follies.
During the implosion of the Irish economy in the Brian Cowen era, one of the few certainties was that if a government policy initiative was incomprehensible, our puzzlement, far from being informed by fiscal illiteracy, was proof positive that the solution would not work. Sadly, this is a rule of thumb that is equally applicable to the political alibis that have been constructed around the Justice Minister. They may stack up for now but the declining poll ratings of the Coalition suggest the public is not buying.
Last week, the Taoiseach tried to drape the political nakedness of Mr Shatter with the cloak of history. But the plea that the Justice Minister is being condemned for the sins of the past is feeble. Mr Shatter is instead being weighed over his response. And increasingly he is being found wanting in the balance.
This dismal public verdict is not surprising. The garda taping scandals may have occurred in the Eighties, but the commissioner resigned a fortnight ago. Yet strangely, we know more about the former than the latter. Confidence is an intangible thing, except when lost. Mr Shatter is now encased in the political deadweight of four inquiries and the possibility of more.
Were he some fledgling barely a week in office, his travails would be more defensible. The minister, though, has been in his department for more than three years and yet what goes on there appears to be more of a mystery to him than ever. Given that he has also during that time attacked whistleblowers, gone to war with GSOC and seen his political strategies fail to such an extent he now has to establish a Garda Authority, which up to last week he had opposed, it is difficult to see how such a politically tattered figure can inspire confidence amongst his colleagues, let alone the citizens. It is even more difficult to have confidence in a minister who has been put under the same Economic Management Council-style school of political probation as Dr Reilly.
Some might even argue that the spectacle where two of Mr Kenny's politically closest ministers are under a variant of political examinership means the Taoiseach's own judgement is open to question. Last week, Willie O'Dea noted that the minister's performance was redolent of the tale of the Greek philosopher Diogenes, who, when found begging alms from a statue, said he was practising disappointment. Mr Shatter is now the walking Diogenes of Leinster House. He generates nothing but disappointment and his position is unsustainable. Once more but this time with feeling, we say time to go, Mr Shatter.
LESSON FOR GILMORE
WHEN Francois Hollande was elected to the French presidency, few were swifter than Eamon Gilmore to declare their unabashed admiration. Sadly for the French, the milk of initial delight swiftly turned to buttermilk once it was discovered that the invisible new broom had no bristles. We can only hope Mr Gilmore has learnt from the local election rout delivered to the timorous Monsieur Hollande by, amongst others, the French National Front. Should he not, the Tanaiste may soon discover the sauce served to a French Hollande closely resembles the dish our own electorate is cooking up for Mr Gilmore.