THE outcome of the vote was never in question – having circled the wagons around Alan Shatter, the Coalition was never going to throw him to the opposition coyotes who had spent two evenings howling for his head. Yesterday evening, the Justice Minister sat and listened as bouquets and brickbats were hurled ion his direction.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan lashed into Fianna Fail, accusing them of "playing the man, not the ball" and that they had "organised a vicious assault on our star player".
Then Fianna Fail's Niall Collins gave as good as he got, even putting the boot into Fine Gael's decision to highlight Alan's unfortunate postal delivery that morning.
"Every deputy has received hate mail. It's not relevant to the debate," he added, as grumbles of dissent rose from the Government side.
It's ironic how one ignoramus succeeded where a ward-full of spin doctors failed, by making many of the citizenry feel a soupcon of sympathy for Alan Shatter.
The Justice Minister can't seem to go outside his door these days without trouble finding him – but yesterday morning he didn't even have to do that much. Instead, trouble visited his south Dublin home in the ugly shape of a crank letter.
Alan appeared a bit subdued when he arrived into the Dail chamber for Leaders' Questions a few hours later, and sat quietly on the front bench as the Taoiseach deplored the incident which involved what he called "anti-semitic material" through his minister's letterbox.
"I'm in this House a long time. We've had members of the Jewish faith here representing the Fianna Fail Party, the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party over the years. This has sunk to a new low," declared Enda, adding: "A stream of similar material has been received in the Department of Justice".
But while both sides of the House agreed that this was all very reprehensible, it was a different sort of letter which continued to exercise the minds of the Opposition – that is, the communique from the now-departed Garda Commissioner to the Justice Minister via Brian Purcell, the Secretary-General of the Department.
As far as Micheal Martin and Gerry Adams were concerned, this was the important missive, and this particular piece of paper still remains shrouded in mystery as to who had read it, and when, in the lead-up to the abrupt' retirement' of Martin Callinan.
Micheal persisted in grilling Enda about the letter. "Do you accept that at the meeting that you held with the Minister, the Attorney General and the Secretary General, you should have been told about the existence of that letter from the Commissioner before the Secretary General went to the Commissioner's house?" he demanded.
After spending a few minutes decrying the other letter (a bit of free high-profile publicity which will surely encourage other cranks to sharpen their green biros), the Taoiseach moved grudgingly in the direction of Micheal's question.
"I should have been told about that letter, I would have assumed..." began Enda.
"Sorry?" interjected Micheal, evidently taken aback at receiving something like a straightforward reply from the Taoiseach.
Enda continued with a touch of weariness, as if by rote. "The minister did not see the letter. The minister was not aware of the letter. The minister, therefore, was not briefed on the contents of the letter," he recited.
But the Fianna Fail leader wondered how could this letter which detailed all the commissioner's concerns about the bugging in garda stations have languished like a neglected Dickens orphan in the minister's department, without anyone placing it in Alan's hot little hands?
"It's just not credible," reckoned Micheal. "I would love to have been a fly on the wall . . ." he said.
"Another bug!" chirped a cheeky voice from the government backbenches.
But Micheal doggedly continued. "I would love to have seen the Commissioner's reaction to the secretary general. Was it, 'Did I not send you a letter two weeks ago . . . ?'
"The inescapable conclusion is that the Garda Commissioner was the scapegoat to protect the minister," he charged.
But Tammy Kenny was still standing by his man, Alan. "You don't want to come to any other conclusion. You've no interest in anything other than political damage to Minister Shatter," Enda said.
Whenever there's a bit of barracking or banter in the Dail, it's not unusual to hear the voice of the Justice Minister adding his sarky tuppence-worth.
But not yesterday. He kept quiet – rousing himself only to barrack Micheal Martin.
And of course he was resoundingly endorsed by 95 votes to 51.
Niall Collins ended his speech just before the vote by borrowing the Godfather quote, "It's not personal, Minister, it's just business, and it's time for you to go".
But Alan Shatter avoided the political equivalent of the concrete overcoat. And the fishes sleep alone –at least until the next bombshell detonates in his department.