Minister admits ‘bad week’ for Government

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has admitted it’s been “a bad week for the Government” as Labour and Fine Gael brace themselves for a backlash in the local and European elections over controversies surrounding Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

Minister admits ‘bad week’ for Government

Ahead of a no-confidence motion in Mr Shatter in the Dáil this week, a weekend opinion poll showed the Coalition at its lowest level of support since taking office three years ago.

The Red C poll published in the Sunday Business Post shows Fine Gael at 26% — a drop from three points in the past month, and Labour at 9% — a drop of two points.

Fianna Fáil — despite keeping the political pressure on Mr Shatter and the Taoiseach on the issue — has stayed the same at 22%, while Sinn Féin is making all of the gains, rising five points to 21% support.

As controversy about revelations of phone recordings at garda stations rumbles on, Mr Rabbitte said it was “entirely alarmist” to suggest that the tapes could jeopardise convictions.

“We don’t have any basis to suggest that some of the most notorious convictions in the country are going to be over-turned and that rapists and murderers and other serious criminals will walk free,” he told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics.

“There is absolutely no basis yet for alarmist talk like that. We serve no purpose in terms of confidence in the administration of justice to be putting about the wildest possible scenarios that might happen.” However, he said, “even if there is a single miscarriage of justice, it is a serious matter”.

The Government said last Tuesday that it was establishing a commission of investigation into the taping of phone calls at garda stations.

In a statement, it said “the implications of this matter are potentially of such gravity” that an inquiry was warranted in the public interest. “The Government is extremely concerned about this information,” it said.

The news broke on the day former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan announced he was retiring, prompting the opposition and some Government backbenchers to privately question if it was an orchestrated effort to take the heat off Mr Shatter, who was under pressure from controversies surrounding the treatment of garda whistle-blowers and penalty point cancellations.

Mr Rabbitte said he did not agree with “conspiracy theories” on the issue. “It is a very serious matter that no government would want landed on its lap,” he said.

“I very much welcome that there is a motion of no confidence next week because it provides the opportunity to put this behind us, allow the inquiries to get on with the issues in parallel and deal with the issues we should be dealing with, like continuing to grow employment.”

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley challenged Fine Gael and Labour TDs to follow through on what they were saying in private, and back the no confidence motion in Mr Shatter.

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