Bizarre story defies Shatter’s drone attack

He talked a lot – but as the meeting wore on, holes began to appear in his story

It was a tough day for the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, who ended up waging a fight on two fronts. Photograph: Eric Luke

It was a tough day for the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, who ended up waging a fight on two fronts. Photograph: Eric Luke

Thu, Feb 20, 2014, 08:40

Leinster House didn’t need to engage a team of counter-surveillance experts to predict that a serious drone attack was imminent yesterday. Incoming sometime after 4pm. The chances of this incident being classified as “benign” were “close to zero”.

You can’t get more definitive than that.

Sinn Féin’s Pádraig MacLochlainn, officer in command of the Committee into Public Service Oversight and Petitions, did his best to contain the damage.

The first attack came in two waves. Fine Gael backbencher, Michelle Mulherrin, who was supposed to be asking the first question, made a very long speech. This was followed by a substantial barrage from Alan Shatter. Within minutes, we were up to our knees in muddy water.

“Maybe you could be sharper with your answers” suggested Pádraig to both of them. They weren’t.

“Is it fair to say the actions of the Garda Ombudsman may have been disproportionate” enquired Michelle, speaking of “a backdrop of mutual suspicion”.

Alan looked glad she asked him that question. And he droned on, and on, and on. Poor Pádraig – and there were hours of this to go – already looked a defeated man. But Shatter’s drone attack continued.

It was a tough day for the Minister for Justice. At the beginning , he had just one fight to worry about – his handling of the GSOC controversy. By the end, the battle had opened on a second front – the sacking of the Garda “confidential recipient” for allegedly telling a whistleblower the minister would “screw him” if his allegations got into the press.

Difficult session
This led to a very difficult session of Leaders’ Questions for the Taoiseach, who looked absolutely disgusted at having to go into the House and announce that Oliver Connolly, the man charged with hearing in confidence complaints from serving gardaí, had been sacked by his boss.

The reason for his dismissal? The emergence of a transcript of a conversation between Shatter’s appointee and Maurice McCabe, who came to him with his concerns. Some though it ironic that Connolly, who reportedly told McCabe that he would be “finished,” was the one actually “finished” by Alan Shatter.

When Enda quietly announced that the force’s confessor had been “formally relieved of his duties,” there were shocked gasps from the opposition benches. “There is something rotten in the state of Denmark” intoned the Fianna Fail leader, coming over all Borgen .

The transcripts issue is slowly gaining traction. As Micheal Martin loudly demanded that the Minister for Justice come into the chamber to explain himself, the government benches were ominously quiet.

Meanwhile, a glowering Taoiseach was forced to take a dressing down from Micheál and Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou. She dismissed his much-vaunted inquiry into the GSOC controversy as “a half baked review” and demanded a stronger response.