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Andrew Lynch: Surely Ahern has better things to do with his time

What on earth is Dermot Ahern playing at?

The Minister for Justice has responded to this week's events in a completely inappropriate manner, by declaring that he will publish the results of a garda investigation into how the letters that forced Trevor Sargent's resignation were revealed by this newspaper.

Fianna Fail's self-styled bruiser is obviously nursing a wounded ego over opposition rumours that he was the source of the leak -- but with this stupid and irresponsible action, he has given the impression that he cares more about his own image than the administration of justice in this country.

Sargent has been rightly lauded for his swift and dignified resignation, but that doesn't mean he should get a free pass for the behaviour which made that resignation necessary. No matter how well-intentioned he might have been, urging gardai to drop a courts summons is a serious transgression of the law for anyone, let alone an experienced TD.

And while he originally tried to portray it as a moment of madness he had forgotten about, the publication of another letter in yesterday's Herald shows that his interest in the case stretched from mid-2008 right up to last week.

This, you might assume, is the real story here. Some other people in Leinster House, however, clearly have a different set of priorities.

The manner in which this political scandal has developed over the last 48 hours has bordered on the Orwellian -- and thanks to Ahern's hurt feelings, it looks set to reach even greater heights of absurdity.

Instead of demanding a full investigation into how and why a junior minister tried to interfere in a criminal prosecution, TDs are now obsessed with a childish game of "whodunnit" that has no relevance whatsoever to the big picture.

Sadly, this is all too reminiscent of what tends to happen when you expose official wrongdoing in Ireland -- the responsible parties are let off with a rap on the knuckles, while the journalists who make the information public are treated like criminals.

This is where Dermot Ahern comes in.

Even before this newspaper broke the Sargent story, the Minister for Justice was going through a rocky patch.


He came out of the Willie O'Dea affair very badly, thanks to a Dail performance in which he jeered and took cheap shots at the Opposition as he sat by his friend's side.

Incredibly enough, the politician whose chief responsibility is to enforce the law seemed to be more interested in playing juvenile parliamentary games than in the fact that a fellow minister had sworn a false affidavit to the High Court.

Now Ahern has acted even more rashly by giving a commitment to make public the results of an internal Garda inquiry. This is unprecedented and raises the question of why police reports on far more important issues never see the light of day.

It also makes a mockery of any suggestion that this one will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, since there is no way you can publish a document that could prejudice any decision he might make.

Perhaps, like Willie O'Dea last week, Ahern believes that he's the real victim here.

Others might suggest that a Garda force already traumatised by recent pay cuts has rather better things to do with its time and resources.