Today Alan Shatter – a man who over the last year or so has managed to alienate practically everyone he comes into contact with – was accused of avoiding a Garda breathalyser test sometime between 2008 and 2011. Now obviously the fact that he did so (and he admitted this in the Dáil today) is deeply disturbing but the real story can be read in the context of today’s revelations.
On Thursday 16 May Shatter appeared alongside TD Mick Wallace on Prime Time, RTE’s lead current affairs programme. They were being interviewed by presenter Pat Kenny to discuss the findings of a recent Garda report on the subject of the abuse of the penalty points appeals system. Wallace and a number of other independent TDs – chiefly Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and Clare Daly – had raised the issue some time ago and this had led to the internal Garda report. The report was soon forgotten, however, when Shatter revealed that Wallace had been stopped by a Garda in the recent past as he was seen using his mobile phone while driving. Wallace initially missed the significance of Shatter’s revelation – he merely shrugged it off saying that he was unable to recall the incident – but Kenny, ever the astute reporter, immediately pulled the minister up on the slip. How had Minister Shatter known about the event, especially as Wallace had gotten away with a verbal warning, which would have meant that the incident would not have been logged in the Garda Pulse system?
In the intervening days Shatter has quite rightly been questioned about his behaviour on all sides – including from some sections of his coalition partners in Labour – and he was forced to make a statement in the Dáil on the following Tuesday. He explained that he had been told by none other than the Garda commissioner himself about the Wallace incident and this has again led on to more questions about why the Garda commissioner would be privy to such information, why he would be telling the minister about it and why did the minister feel the need to hang the commissioner out to dry? The last one’s the easiest: he wanted to save his own neck.
All this has been extensively commented upon and for the most part I agree with the general sentiment, that Shatter has abused his position of power in order to character-assassinate one of his political rivals and he should probably consider his position. But be that as it may, the latest events in this saga have been in many ways even more depressing in the context of where Irish politics is currently at.
I was sitting down to eat my dinner when I heard an interview being conducted between Mary Wilson of Radio 1’s Drivetime and Niall Collins of Fianna Fáil. They were discussing the implications of Mattie McGrath’s – also of Fianna Fáil – revelation earlier today in the Dáil about Shatter’s breathalyser test. Collins failed to see how admonishing Shatter for having access to and using private information about a citizen of the State on one day and on the next seeing no issue with a member of his own party using the very same underhanded tactics for their own political agenda could in some way be construed as hypocritical.
The neck of these politicians! Do they really think that people are so stupid that they can’t keep track of events over the period of a week? Granted, they shift positions regularly on a whole range of issues but they usually credit the electorate by leaving at least a month or two between each of their diametrically opposed statements. Mattie McGrath’s claim and the support that his party has given him has brought the level of Irish politics to a new low and god knows that is no easy feat given the lamentable performances of the last number of years.
You’re spot on Frank. Seperately I think that Eamon Gilmore’s defence of Shatter is reprehensible but of course not unexpected. Remember the outrage expressed by Labour about the deft Political strokes of Fianna Fáil. Pat Rabitte and his cronies…and what they wouldn’t do when in power. There’s not a modicum of leadership left in the country, just fat cats hanging on.
(Harry Lynam, 30/05/2013 19:58:27)