Fine Gael and Labour braced for backlash over Alan Shatter
FINE Gael and the Labour Party are bracing themselves for a local election backlash over the continual stream of scandals surrounding Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
Coalition party candidates have told senior strategists the Government's bad handling of the garda controversies was damaging their campaigns.
Canvassers are reporting Mr Shatter's name is coming up repeatedly on doorsteps "and not in a good way".
The negative impact was first noticed in urban areas, but has spread to every part of the country in the wake of the resignation of the Garda Commissioner and the revelations of the taping scandals.
The party hierarchies are keen to move on from the affair amid growing fears the ground being lost can't be made up in the eight weeks to May 23.
"The voters wouldn't be happy. This is an issue that's dragging on for a period of time and is now building up. The council candidates would be getting a lot of flak," a senior Fine Gael figure said.
"Even Fine Gael people are looking to give us a kick. They think we know more than we are telling them," another party source said.
But Labour is also suffering as a result of the fallout surrounding Mr Shatter, even though he's a Fine Gael minister.
"Shatter's name has come up and members have said so. They are latching on to what the news agenda is. It's impossible to understand. Shatter's name is coming up and not in a good way. It's not helpful to the election campaign. This week, people are far more tuned into it," a senior party source said.
Canvassers are reporting a bad reception on the doors.
"It tarnished the image. People are confused. It's his personality that's destroying him," a Fine Gael TD said.
Mr Shatter is facing a motion of no confidence in the Dail next week, ensuring the controversy stays on top of the agenda for another week.
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin tabled the motion yesterday, meaning it will be debated on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mr Martin called on Coalition TDs to "reflect" before voting for Mr Shatter, who he says has been "running scared" over a range of controversies.
Given the Government's strong majority, the motion will likely be defeated.
Fine Gael ministers said the motion would help to shore up Mr Shatter's position.
"Fianna Fail did us a favour. It will finish it," a minister said.
Concerns were expressed at Fine Gael meetings in Mr Shatter's south Dublin heartland this week.
The minister got muted support at the party's annual general meeting in his own constituency of Dublin South.
A member proposed a motion supporting the minister, which was parked until the full situation emerged.
Canvassers at the meeting at The Goat Bar, near Dundrum, said they were enduring "a difficult time" and there was a "change of tone".
"We are a long way from the Ard Fheis. There is no cheering from the rafters," a party source said.
At the Dublin South-East AGM, members said it was a "very worrying time".
The meeting at the Hampton Court Hotel in Donnybrook on Tuesday night heard a great deal of disquiet from party grassroots members.