WHAT a fiasco. After the grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented events of the last 24 hours, it appears that Ireland has entered GUBU territory again.
Alan Shatter is surely past the point of no return – but the revelations of garda taping are so devastating that even his resignation may not be enough to dig the Government out of this particular mess.
If anyone expected Shatter to show some humility in his Dail statement this morning, they were sorely disappointed.
Instead, Arrogant Al was on show yet again as he lashed out at both the opposition and media for supposedly rushing to judgement before the full facts were established. His text ran to just over 2,500 words – but, true to form, 'sorry' was not one of them.
Essentially, Shatter's speech sounded more like a defence lawyer's statement than a government minister's one. It bought him some time, but completely failed to answer the deadly serious questions that are now swirling around him.
Some of Shatter's colleagues must have held their heads in their hands as they realised he was not even going to mention the garda whistleblowers who are still waiting for an apology from him.
Despite Shatter's airy dismissal of his critics, the official timeline of these events is quite incredible.
We are being asked to believe that neither he nor anyone in the Department of Justice saw the GSOC report published last June that made a clear reference to garda bugging.
We are then told that Commissioner Martin Callinan informed Attorney General Maire Whelan of the problem last November, but the Minister remained in blissful ignorance.
Finally, Callinan wrote to Shatter about the issue on March 10 but the letter apparently did not reach him until Tuesday morning. When you strip away all the bluster, only two explanations are possible.
One, the lines of communication in our criminal justice system have become completely dysfunctional. Two, someone in the chain of command dropped the ball.
Even Shatter's biggest enemies would describe him as an incredibly hard-working minister who is usually on top of his brief.
Now it seems that he was kept in the dark for several months about one of the most dangerous scandals in Irish legal history.
Martin Callinan's shock resignation yesterday morning already feels like a long time ago. Some cynics even wondered if the Government's announcement of a new Commission of Investigation was a ploy to distract attention from the whistleblower issue.
If so, it has spectacularly backfired – because the smokescreen has turned into a raging inferno that now threatens to incinerate the coalition itself.
No matter how many heads roll, however, the State is facing a nightmare scenario. We may be about to see a large number of criminal convictions overturned because of 2,400 illegally obtained garda tapes that stretch back over 30 years.
The public are entitled to know: how the hell could this have happened? As the tension mounts, all eyes are turning to the Labour Party. If ever there was a time for Eamon Gilmore to demand a ministerial head, this is surely it.
Ever since the garda controversy first broke, Labour have been consistently behind the curve – but now they have one last chance to emerge with their credibility intact.
The opposition's attitude is simple – one man down, one to go. Shatter will be doing a huge amount of talking over the next 48 hours, but it will be a minor miracle if he can save his political skin now.
To use Martin Callinan's phrase, "The pigeons have come home to roost" – and the ex-Commissioner is highly unlikely to be the only casualty.