Wallace cuts through the waffle, for all the good it will do

The country is driven mad with this whistleblower stuff, writes Miriam Lord

Wallace lets fly at Shatter in heated Dáil debate: Independent TD asks how Fine Gael can stand over claim it is the party of law and order

Thu, Feb 27, 2014, 10:11

The country is driven mad with this bugging and whistleblower stuff. Day upon day upon day of it. Wild spinning. Claim and confusing counter-claim. Taped conversations and flying transcripts. Government Ministers tying themselves into knots trying to sell the latest twist. Judges and lawyers stacked in a holding pattern above Leinster House, waiting for their landing slot on the latest inquiry.

Statements handed down from the oracle at Garda headquarters and channelled through selected handmaidens. A supercilious Minister cherishing whistleblowers while aiming digs at them, making things worse by playing politics. Blowing his Taoiseach off course and into the Dáil to explain. An Opposition making hay.

Yet, at the heart of it all, there are important questions about how senior management in An Garda Síochána conduct their business. That’s of interest to most people, even if they might be fed up listening to all the noise from the Dáil.

And into all of this steps Mick Wallace. A squeeze of lemon to cut through the lardy speechifying and point-scoring of the past few weeks. He won the day in the Dáil – for all the good it’ll do him.

Yesterday, after the latest instalment in this saga, if the Taoiseach ran into a few of of those random talkative citizens who confide in him on the street – and he never tires of telling the Dáil about them – chances are they will have sung the praises of Wallace. Chances are, they will have told Enda that the Independent TD summed up how they feel about how politics is conducted in Leinster House these days.

Wallace was high up on the list of speakers on Shatterday – the Dáil sitting set aside to hear the Minister for Justice answer his critics.

Alan Shatter, as had been widely leaked the night before, was going to come out fighting and lay to rest any outstanding questions about his role in the whole affair. He spoke for 35 minutes, giving a very detailed timeline of how the complaints of Garda misconduct were handled by the Garda and other authorities. He wasn’t out to speak ill of anybody, but he managed to deliver several strong swipes at Fianna Fáil and damn the Garda whistleblower with faint praise.

Shatter was well prepared, mustering his rebuttal arguments well. The Government backbenchers relaxed. Then Fianna Fáil’s Michael Martin blasted his “appalling” handling of the issue, accusing him of, at worst, “actively subverting the goal of dealing with allegations of improper behaviour”.

He still had questions to answer over his relationship with the Garda Commissioner, his sacking of the confidential recipient and his claim that the whistleblower refused to co-operate with a Garda inquiry. The Sinn Féin leader followed suit. By then, three speakers in, the Government benches had all but cleared and a handful of deputies remained in the house.

Then it was Mick’s turn. He began quietly, but outlining how he and others had been trying for 18 months to get the issue of Garda malpractice on to the political agenda. Attempts to suggest improvements to the oversight process had been ignored. “Your concern was with covering up, minimising and dismissing,” said Wallace. “The Fine Gael party used to pride itself on being the party of law and order. How in God’s name can it stand
over that?”

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