Shatter declares war on Sinn Fein 'fascists' and party 'bully-boys'
Former Justice Minister says SF are 'a fascist party dressed up in sheep's clothes' who only 'pretend' to be democratic
Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter has launched a scathing attack on Sinn Fein, branding them as "fascists" and "bully-boys" who are more of a "cult" than a democratic party.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Independent, the outspoken Fine Gael TD admitted the embattled Coalition parties - who currently have the support of just over a quarter of the electorate - has "lost its way and needs to refocus" in 2015 if they are to prevent being wiped out in the next election.
And he warned there is a serious risk the country could "sleepwalk into disaster" if Sinn Fein and an alliance of Independent TDs gain control of the country's finances.
"I think this country is seriously at risk for its future. I am concerned that there could be a result in the next election that would be a disaster for the country," he said.
"I am concerned that people are disillusioned and I can understand that - people have gone through difficult times. They are looking for a new political messiah."
However, Mr Shatter said there is no substance on offer from some of the people "who are presently popular in the opinion polls - and I include some Independents, and Sinn Féin in that."
The former minister - forced to resign earlier this year after a series of Garda scandals - also lambasted what he described as Sinn Féin's "fascist tendencies".
He told the Sunday Independent: "There seems to be a group of bully-boys who are around the Sinn Féin campaigns.
"When Sinn Fein have their organised protests, there is a group of people who seem to hang into those protests and who are aggressive."
Mr Shatter said he "greatly fears" for people's civil liberties if Sinn Féin come to power.
"The prospect of Sinn Féin [in government] does frighten me," Mr Shatter said.
"Sinn Fein, to me, are basically a fascist party dressed up in sheep's clothes. I think they try to make a pretence that they are now a fully democratic party. I think the manner in which they operate suggests they are more of a cult than a party.
"I think that if Sinn Féin was into government it would pose very serious risks to the economy of this country. It would pose serious threats to our capacity to maintain health and social services and I think they would pose an enormous threat to civil liberties."
He added: "This is not a party that tolerates dissent. This is not a party that has a capacity to address issues in a democratic way. It is a party that believes it holds views that are sacrosanct and the world should operate in the manner Sinn Féin dictates. So I would seriously hope that people will retain an enormous scepticism when it comes to Sinn Féin. I think people should examine what they do as opposed to what they say."
When asked to elaborate on this, Mr Shatter pointed to Sinn Fein's undemocratic party structures and its treatment of Provo abuse victim Mairia Cahill.
"Within Sinn Fein no dissent of any description is allowed. When it came to the Maria Cahill scandal, Sinn Fein held firm on rejecting the allegations made and were finally, to some extent, beaten by media, public comment, and by public in Leinster House, in somewhat revising their approach. But it is quite clear that they are unrepentant for what happened."
The Fine Gael TD for Dublin South also criticised what he described as "an outer-rim of Sinn Fein" - a group of party members "who may have the ballot box in one hand but are quite willing to behave in a manner that is completely undemocratically unacceptable on the other hand".
Mr Shatter warned: "I think this outer-rim of Sinn Fein poses a threat. I fear that the public, particularly those in parts of this country who have really gone through difficult and bad times in the last few years, are now being exploited by Sinn Féin in a very dishonest way to their political benefit."
He also challenged the mainstream political parties, including his own, to do more to challenge Sinn Fein's economic policies, which he said "make no sense".
"There is a responsibility on all of us who are engaged in politics to do what we can to ensure that that doesn't happen," he said. "You can't form governments on the basis of Independents who are members of the Dail opposing every single decision ever made. Sinn Féin opposing every single decision ever made. No positive vision of the future. And many of those who are now popular in the opinion polls are people whose pronouncements in public, if they had been implemented and taken seriously, would have bankrupt the country two or three years ago."
But he admits the Government, which has stumbled from crisis to crisis since the country exited the bailout programme, is partly to blame for the rise of Sinn Fein and the Independents in the polls.
"I am genuinely concerned the Government has lost its way and I believe it needs to refocus. Ultimately, the people of this country will make their decision, but it is important that they don't give their support to people for no reason other than they oppose everything."
Despite the huge swing in support for Independents - up nine points to 32pc in the most recent Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll - Mr Shatter said he does not believe there is a vaccum for a new political party to fill.
"We've been there before. I remember the PDs were hailed as the great new thing in Irish politics. The PDs are directly responsible - and people seem to forget this - for the economic collapse that happened in the 2008/2010 period," he said.
"The PDs were in government with Fianna Fail in the lead in to the collapse. Michael McDowell departed from politics in 2007 - he was so economically illiterate as to tell the nation that the government didn't need Stamp Duty from properties.
"So I think people should be very cautious. I think the old phrase, 'buyer beware', should apply to the suggestion that some new party suddenly emerges out of the heavens or is magicked out by some members in Leinster House, where there is no clearly identifiable policies, where things have not been properly costed, where it is built around personality and division rather than what's in the public interest. People should be very sceptical of that."
Mr Shatter - who will appear as one of the 'celebrity' chefs on TV3's The Restaurant in January - admits he has "a lot more time on my hands than I anticipated" since he stood down as minister on May 7, following receipt of Sean Guerin's report into allegations by Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.