Alan Shatter may have been one of the Taoiseach’s greatest defenders but even he learned that politics is a ruthless game.

The former Justice Minister — who had acted as a faithful lieutenant to Mr Kenny — yesterday said he was “encouraged to resign” from his ministerial position by the Taoiseach in May 2014.

The Taoiseach last night refused to comment on claims he pushed Mr Shatter to step down.

Mr Shatter was one of those who stood by Mr Kenny during Richard Bruton’s attempted heave in 2010. He was handsomely rewarded by Mr Kenny and given the responsibility of two ministerial portfolios — the Department of Justice and Equality and the Department of Defence.

But in politics it appears power and self-preservation trumps loyalty.

And Mr Shatter became a sitting duck when allegations that serious crimes were improperly investigated by the gardaí surfaced.

According to Mr Shatter, the Taoiseach decided a sacrifice was needed when barrister Sean Guerin’s investigation into the handling of garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe’s allegations of malpractice in the force was published.

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But even in the days after his resignation he remained loyal: “I continue to regard the Taoiseach as a friend. I think this was a matter of great difficulty for him.”

Although he claimed he was encouraged to step down, Mr Shatter is still holding onto the hope —as only a self-assured politician can — of returning to a ministerial position if elected in this month’s general election.

This brash self-confidence was also seen when Mr Shatter took a High Court challenge in a bid to quash parts of the Guerin report.

His court challenge against the Government-sanctioned Guerin report was subsequently dismissed.

Later the Fennelly report, which looked into circumstances around the retirement of the former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan, cleared him of wrong-doing, but he was already firmly seated in the backbenches by then.

During a podcast interview with the Irish Times, Mr Shatter yesterday said his party leader had his “own perspective on these things” and had put pressure on him to resign.

He said: “I resigned for a number of reasons. There was an ongoing media frenzy we were heading into the local and European elections.

“It seemed it did not matter if I told the truth or not about issues, it was never ending. I was concerned that it would be damaging to colleagues, good colleagues and friends who were running for local elections.

“That weighed heavily on me. Quite clearly the Taoiseach had his own perspective on these things. If I could put it simply he encouraged me to resign in the circumstances as they arose. That is the simple reality and fact,” said Mr Shatter.

His comments are at odds with the Taoiseach who back at the time of the resignation said he had no bearing on Mr Shatter’s decision to step down.

“When [Mr Shatter] read the report and went through the relevant sections he made his own choice.

“That was the decision that Alan Shatter came to himself and that’s directly stated in his own letter, and [he stated] so to me,” Mr Kenny said at the time.

However, as he continued his election tour to Cork yesterday evening, Mr Kenny said he would not comment on any conversation he had with any minister.

Mr Kenny said: “I would say this, Alan Shatter in his carrying out of his duties as government minister was carrying two portfolios, Justice and Defence, and showed both a prodigious output in terms of work and veracious appetite to deal with many of the serious challenges that lay there.

“I hope that Alan Shatter and Josepha Madigan are both returned in that constituency.”

And last night Mr Shatter appeared to return to the fold telling the Irish Examiner he wouldn’t be speaking further about his resignation.

“I am not adding to that.

“It is not an issue of any great importance in the context of the general election,” he said.

But on the matter of the election, Mr Shatter said he is ready to fight to retain his seat in what he described as the “constituency of death” of Dublin Rathdown.

He hopes that by getting through the election he can also return to cabinet.

He said: “This is the constituency of death. One or two current sitting TDs are going to lose their seat. There are good people who may not get elected.

“There are good candidates and good sitting TDs who are not standing. My focus is to get re-elected. Would I like to find myself back in Cabinet? Of course I would. Do I believe that will happen? I simply don’t know.”

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