DANIEL MCCONNELL: Is it ok to have a liar as Taoiseach?

Picture: RollingNews.ie

Vindicated, Shatter can carry on. But for Kenny, the damage is more significant, writes Daniel McConnell, Political Editor

HOW much sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless former justice minister?

Hell’s fury took second place yesterday to the extraordinary statements from Alan Shatter, who took aim at his former Cabinet boss and political ally, Enda Kenny.

Following on from his latest High Court victory to clear his name, Shatter went on radio in the bearpit which is Sean O’Rourke’s studio 7 in RTÉ’s radio centre.

Shatter has always maintained his stance as the most wronged politician in Ireland since John O’Donoghue following his forced resignation in 2014.

This followed the publication of the Sean Guerin report into the handling by Shatter of allegations made by whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

Shatter was criticised in the report but has been aggrieved, with considerable legitimacy, that Guerin never interviewed him nor allowed him an opportunity to respond.

We know that Enda Kenny agreed to publish the report against Shatter’s wishes and effectively forced the then justice minister to resign.

Shatter has since taken and been successful in his legal bid to clear his name.

Yesterday, he unleashed hell and effectively called Kenny a liar.

“The unfortunate reality is that in some areas, the Taoiseach has a casual relationship with the truth,” he told O’Rourke.

Shatter said he was “forced to resign” by Kenny who, in his view, dealt with the publication of the Guerin “wrongly”.

Shatter said he was “given no choice but to resign”.

“The Taoiseach’s comment was that he could no longer express confidence in me as a consequence of Mr Guerin’s report,” he said. “The truth is that man never talked to me... The Taoiseach was wrong to have accepted the report when I sounded a warning as to how Mr Guerin conducted his inquiry; he was wrong to have ignored what I said in my resignation letter; he was wrong to have ignored what I said when I put these matters on the Dáil record in June of 2014.”

Whatever about the personal hostility that must exist between the two men, Shatter — now once again a private citizen — has called the most senior elected politician in the country a liar.

The added significance of his charge is that Shatter was once one of Kenny’s closest allies and defenders in Cabinet.

Shatter stood with Kenny in the 2010 heave and had his back until he was abandoned. He is now three years out of Cabinet and a year out of the Dáil.

Vindicated, he can carry on with his life.

But for Kenny, he is still here, the damage is more significant.

For the second time in less than three weeks, Kenny’s relationship with the truth has been called into serious question.

Central to Shatter’s claim was the evidence Kenny gave to the O’Higgins Inquiry about his role in Shatter’s resignation, which he said was untrue.

Also, he pointed to the fact that Kenny was forced to correct the Dáil record about Shatter’s performance as minister for justice.

On Wednesday, May 25 last, Kenny took to his feet in the chamber.

“In response to a request from the former minister, I would also like to take the opportunity to correct the Dáil record of May 7, 2014,” the Taoiseach said.

“I am happy to state, on the record, that the former minister in resigning did not, in fact, accept responsibility for criticism made in the Guerin report of the adequacy of the department and the minister for justice and equality in responding to allegations made by Sgt McCabe.”

“The former minister set out his reasons clearly in his letter of his resignation. I am very pleased to acknowledge that the O’Higgins report has found clearly he acted properly at all times in relation to the handling of allegations made by Maurice McCabe,” the Taoiseach said.

An embarrassing climbdown for the dear leader, especially now in the context of knowing he forced Shatter’s resignation and that of Martin Callinan, the then Garda Commissioner.

But as we all remember, the Taoiseach had to issue his ‘mea culpa’ over his imagined conversation with Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone during an interview on RTÉ’s This Week.

He lied again and had to dig himself out the hole by signalling his intention to resign once he comes back from the US.

Another important thing Shatter said yesterday gave an important glimpse into what kind of leader Kenny is.

Shatter spoke of the toll he has suffered since been effectively sacked by Kenny.

Shatter said he was very disappointed at the lack of support from colleagues for “fear of wrath of Enda Kenny”.

The Wrath of Enda Kenny? Shatter’s pointed words painted Kenny as a vengeful dictator holding the fate of his underlings in his hands.

This from a former minister of justice who sat around the Cabinet table with him.

Did this reign of terror begin only after he departed or is this how Kenny has always ruled his party?

I’m sure John Deasy — and others who have fallen foul of Kenny like Lucinda Creighton — would have a view on that.

While the Taoiseach’s office quickly rejected Shatter’s claims yesterday, it is another blow to his bid to try and distance himself from the McCabe saga.

Kenny’s clear plan in kicking to touch on when he will actually exit the stage is to ensure people say he was not forced from office because of the saga that cost Shatter and Callinan their jobs.

It is ironic in the extreme that the very same crisis which led to Kenny forcing his then minister and Garda chief from office in order to save himself ultimately has led to his departure.

The question has to be asked, is it ok to have a liar as Taoiseach?

  • On a separate note, this week we sadly lost the unique personality Peter Mathews at the age of 65 to cancer.

A tenacious advocate for his view of the world, he was a surprise addition to the world of Leinster House on winning a third seat for Fine Gael in 2011.

A wonderfully dissenting voice, he was an important contributor to the debate on the Irish economy.

His ability to drive Finance Minister Michael Noonan around the bend was often a joy to watch from the gallery in the Dáil.

A banker by profession, he fell foul of the party whip in 2013 and his re-election was always going to be an uphill struggle.

Perhaps not used to the frenetic pace of politics, Peter could find it hard to boil his points down at the annoyance of some, but at all times he was the epitome of courtesy.

He was a gentleman.

As I hailed from Stillorgan and he from nearby Mount Merrion, we enjoyed many enjoyable conversations through the years. I still have my Peter Mathews pen he gave me before the last election.

What you saw with Peter you got and the genuine affection expressed from ushers to ministers toward him reflected that.

My sympathies to his wife Susan, his children James, John, David and Maria and entire family.

I hope he rests in peace.


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