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Shatter's support has shallow roots

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President Michael D Higgins

President Michael D Higgins

President Michael D Higgins

BROKEN promises, broken institutions, broken people and a broken future were the legacy left by Fianna Fail when it was hunted out of office in 2011.

Astonishingly, despite the harrowing inflicted on that party, indications are scant that the current administration will leave a significantly better one. In fairness, it has tidied up the place a little, but the Irish malaise of misgovernance and insider trading is still in rude good health. By contrast, one measure of the utter depletion of intellectual capital Irish politics has suffered is that the political figure who has most cohesively analysed the failing state of Irish democracy has been a septuagenarian President, Michael D Higgins, whose designated constitutional position is to act as a sort of national Queen Mother.

When it comes to the wasteland of the increasingly disparaged economics of austerity, it was Michael D who led where others followed. Now, Mr Higgins has taken a similar leadership position with his warning that society is "sleepwalking into disaster" via its failures to create a new political ethic. The events of last week indicate further how timely was the President's recent warning that the public has been "numbed" by "breaches of trust" arising from the role that institutions and professions played in the economic collapse. And in a country where increasingly it appears to the citizen at least that the State is engaged in an undeclared war against its own citizens, the problems and consequences posed by this failed school of politics go far beyond the economy.

Nothing, sadly, proves the correctness of the President's claim that merely "repairing a system which had failed to deliver is not an option" more than the GSOC and whistleblower controversies. The phrase 'Keystone Cops' is normally applied to police. On this occasion, it is much more applicable to the performance of their minister, for the response to this curiouser and curiouser controversy raises the most serious of questions about the political judgement of Alan Shatter and senior cabinet ministers. This was a crisis that could have been solved by the fairly basic political virtues of diplomacy, accountability and transparency. Instead, to date, with the exception of Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and certain independents, such as Clare Daly and Michael Wallace, politics has failed again.

The dominant feature of the Government's response has consisted of the abandonment of those aforementioned virtues in favour of a Gadarene-swine style embrace of the inglorious Irish 'herd instinct'. Such was the extent of this development that even serious politicians, such as Michael Noonan and Joan Burton, were gathered into the mess. Tangled webs are more often than not the creature of incompetence, rather than deceit, and this debacle certainly is acquiring all the characteristics of the former.

In particular, the jerry-built, neither-fish-nor-fowl solution of an ad-hoc inquiry, where once again politicians have abdicated their responsibilities to a retired judge, would have embarrassed Bertie Ahern. As Mr Shatter increasingly resembles that school of mule that will neither drive nor be led, the Government's response is a long way away from the legal maxim of 'let justice be done though the heavens fall'. Instead, the only thing that has fallen has been the Confidential Recipient. The unfortunate Mr Connolly may not be the last casualty. When it comes to the issue of confidence, the moving finger is now pointing squarely in the direction of the Justice Minister. Should it remain there, it is unlikely that many of the already embarrassed unwise Labour and Fine Gael political Praetorian Guard who surrounded Mr Shatter last week will linger.

Sunday Independent