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Arrogant Al's time was up and few will shed any tears

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Alan Shatter. Photo: Frank McGrath

Alan Shatter. Photo: Frank McGrath

Alan Shatter. Photo: Frank McGrath

IN the end, even Arrogant Al had to admit that the game was up.

Alan Shatter's resignation yesterday evening may have felt like a shock, but in fact the relentless series of garda controversies meant that his time at the Department of Justice was bound to end in tears.

His departure has not just forced Enda Kenny to reshuffle the Cabinet well ahead of schedule – it also raises questions over the Taoiseach's judgement in defending him for so long.

Kenny's Dail statement strongly suggests that Shatter had to be pushed before he jumped. On Wednesday night, the Taoiseach received a 300-page report from senior counsel Sean Guerin into allegations of garda misconduct made by whistleblower Maurice McCabe. We must wait until tomorrow to see that report – but whatever its conclusions, they were obviously serious enough to make the Minister clear his desk within 24 hours.

SCANDALS

This really saying something, because up until now Shatter has shown an amazing ability to sail through scandals unscathed.

As recently as Tuesday, the Data Protection Commissioner ruled that he broke the law by revealing garda information about Independent TD Mick Wallace on live television last year.

That would be quite enough to shame some justice ministers into quitting, but instead Shatter gave every indication that he intended to carry on regardless.

Now the Wallace affair is academic. The Guerin report will lead to a full-blown commission of inquiry and there are more investigations into cancelled penalty points and illegal garda recordings coming down the tracks. Shatter's exit means that at least some of the political sting has been taken out of all these issues.

Even so, Enda Kenny himself is not off the hook. The Taoiseach clearly should have sacked Shatter a long time ago, especially as the Minister's antics were undermining public faith in our justice system. Most importantly, Kenny has still not explained the murky circumstances that prompted him to effectively sack Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan six weeks ago.

Few TDs in Leinster House will shed any tears over Shatter's political demise. He was never exactly a great believer in the old adage: "Be nice to people on the way up, because you're going to meet them again on the way down." His opponents often claimed that he spoke to them as if they were a bunch of particularly dim five-year-olds.

Whatever about Shatter's personality, however, nobody could doubt his reforming zeal. First elected to the Dail in 1981, the high-flying solicitor waited 30 years to achieve his dream job and was clearly determined to make the most of it. He worked such long hours that the Attorney General had to formally ask him to stop ringing her before 7am.

Shatter was always much more colourful than the average Irish politician. During his student days, he designed women's PVC clothes and sold them in the Dandelion Market. He wrote a bestselling family law book but also showed his racier side by penning the steamy novel Laura.

RUDE

Shatter could be devastatingly rude about Fine Gael leaders, once complaining that Garret FitzGerald "couldn't run a monkeys' tea party". When FitzGerald failed to make him a minister, he recalled: "I became completely and utterly p***** off." According to his late FG colleague Nuala Fennell: "He couldn't get on with anyone. He was such a hate figure in the Dail because he was personally nasty."

In many ways, Shatter was an excellent Minister for Justice who pushed through important measures such as gay adoption and reducing judges' pay. Sadly, he never realised that in politics you need more than a high IQ to succeed.

He simply did not have the emotional intelligence to admit his mistakes – and when even Enda Kenny ran out of patience with him, his goose was finally cooked.

If you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Alan Shatter has just learned that lesson in the most painful way possible.


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