| 6.5°C Dublin

Points report has wiped the smirk off Shatter's face

ALAN Shatter is sometimes accused by his political opponents of smirking at them. Now that smirk has been well and truly wiped off his face.

The Garda Inspectorate's penalty points report has largely vindicated the two whistleblowers who first raised concerns – and severely embarrassed the Minister for Justice.

Not for the first time, Shatter only has himself to blame. When the allegations of inappropriately cancelled penalty points surfaced in late 2012, all the minister had to do was keep an open mind.

Instead, he rushed to judgment, pouring scorn over the very idea and leaving himself wide open to being contradicted by the facts.

The Garda Inspectorate report runs to 74 pages, but can be summed up in one sentence: Whistleblowers 1, Shatter 0. It contains plenty of evidence to show that the points system has been widely abused.

There may not have been any corruption involved, but the lack of supervision meant that too many speeding motorists were let off on the basis of a nod and a wink.

Shatter is trying to put the best possible spin on his political defeat. He has promised to implement all 37 of the report's recommendations, most importantly a new law that will take the power to terminate points out of local gardai's hands and transfer it to a central system.

APOLOGY

On a personal level for Arrogant Al, however, sorry still seems to be the hardest word – because there is no sign of him issuing the apology that Sgt Maurice McCabe and former garda John Wilson believe they deserve.

The report's findings also make difficult reading for Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. Only a few weeks ago, he provoked fury by going in front of the Public Accounts Committee and appearing to call the whistleblowers' conduct "quite disgusting".

Last night he wisely chose to soften his stance, insisting that he was actually referring to "the manner in which personal and sensitive data was inappropriately appearing in the public domain".

The same goes for Alan Shatter. While the Garda Inspectorate's report is certainly awkward for him, it may soon be the least of his worries.

There are two more investigations due to conclude soon – and both have the potential to make any penalty points scandal look trivial by comparison.

Retired High Court judge John Cooke is looking into last month's claim that somebody bugged the Garda Ombudsman's office.

Senior counsel Sean Guerin, meanwhile, is reviewing the dossier compiled by whistleblower Maurice McCabe that allegedly shows dodgy garda behaviour in cases involving serious crime. In all three controversies, there has been a consistent pattern of behaviour.

Shatter chose to play the man and not the ball, implying that the expressions of concern in each case were baseless.

He is sometimes said to be politically safe because he stood by Enda Kenny's side during the Fine Gael leadership crisis in 2010.

DEFEND

Even so, the Taoiseach must surely be getting fed up with having to constantly defend his accident-prone justice minister.

As for the Labour Party, it sees Shatter as an ally on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, but it will not hesitate to cut him loose if he starts to drag the Government's poll ratings down.

Alan Shatter has now collected a dangerous number of penalty points on his political licence.

If his reckless behaviour continues, he may end up paying the biggest penalty of all.


Privacy