Tuesday 16 July 2019

Varadkar turning Fine Gael into a cult, says Shatter

Swing-fall TD used as scapegoat in elections: ex-minister

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

Hugh O'Connell

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been accused of turning Fine Gael into "a cult" by a former cabinet colleague.

Ex-justice minister Alan Shatter has drawn comparisons between his old party and Sinn Féin.

He launched a stinging critique of what he says is a "dangerous and ill-thought-out" proposal to require all election candidates to disclose any previous convictions or court cases they are involved in.

Writing in today's Irish Independent, Mr Shatter outlines a number of problems with the proposal, which is part of Mr Varadkar's response to the Maria Bailey controversy.

He said he needed to take a legal case himself to uphold his reputation and others should be able to do so.

Speaking at the weekend, the Taoiseach said future candidates for Fine Gael would have to disclose previous convictions or court cases they were involved in.

Mr Varadkar said they could no longer be treated as private matters, as they did have an impact on the party.

But Mr Shatter says it is unclear what would happen on Fine Gael being "made aware" of candidates being involved in court cases.

He asks whether it would "be assessed by a secret kangaroo court" operated by party officials at Fine Gael headquarters. "If so, Sinn Féin might provide some handy advice," he writes.

Mr Shatter also believes that Ms Bailey was used as a "scapegoat" for the party's below-expectations performance in the local elections.

He pointed to other electorally sensitive issues such as the National Children's Hospital overspend, the CervicalCheck debacle and the cost of living.

Last month FG TD Ms Bailey withdrew a claim against a Dublin hotel over a fall from a swing after the court case was revealed by this newspaper. The matter is now the subject of an inquiry by senior counsel David Kennedy.

Mr Shatter writes that nobody should be required "to sacrifice their personal and constitutional rights to initiate court proceedings to right a wrong, to resolve family conflict or to address a contentious business or other issue".

He says the Taoiseach's "dangerous and ill-thought-out proposal has more in common with the conduct of a cult than a political party" and an "extraordinary overreaction" born of "an obsession with public relations, spin and image".

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section