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The top priority of our Minister for Justice? Proving how hilarious he is

Dermot Ahern is keen to show that he has a sense of humour. At Fianna Fail's annual think-in this week, the Minister for Justice's biggest contribution has been a colourful story about how he once used a tea-towel to chase a chicken called Lady Gaga around his back garden.

Unfortunately, the public would be rather more interested to hear about what plans he has, if any, to track down the gangland criminals who are running riot in Dublin -- because as the latest shootings have proved yet again, these chickens really are coming home to roost.

Ahern's tale of domestic woe must have made for a good laugh in the cosy surroundings of the Ardilaun Hotel in Galway. Over the weekend, it seems, he attempted to move a chicken coop to a different part of his garden but botched the job so badly that his four feathered friends ended up making a successful jail break. After two frantic hours of the minister crying fowl, Lady Gaga, Aimee, Speedy and Olivia took pity on him and returned to their cells.

Over the same weekend, meanwhile, some rather more serious breaches of justice were taking place in Dublin. The crime godfather Eamonn Kelly was almost killed in his Killester home during a failed raid that was almost certainly by a local gang of drug dealers and extortionists.


Sean Winters was not so lucky, shot down at Portmarnock Dart station by the Community IRA in what was the 19th gun murder of the year.

These shootings may have become a depressingly regular occurrence, but they are still terrifying for local communities who are understandably afraid that innocent people will end up getting caught in the crossfire. A decent Minister for Justice would be working overtime to come up with creative solutions that might offer some reassurance.

Instead, Ahern's response to the latest killings has been alarmingly perfunctory -- underlining the suspicion that not only is he fresh out of ideas, he has decided to accept this kind of slaughter on our streets as an unavoidable fact of life.

This is what makes Ahern's banter so distasteful. There is a time and a place for humour in politics, but not from a Minister for Justice who should be devoting all his energies to fighting some of the most vicious criminals this country has ever seen.

The Minister for Justice has turned out to be one of this Government's biggest failures -- yet another reason why at the next general election, FF's goose will be well and truly cooked.