Shatter milks the moment, looking like 'Secret Millionaire’

Miriam Lord: Former minister gives preening display for media on Leinster House plinth

Mary Minihan reports from Leinster House as former Justice Minister Alan Shatter TD announces he will be donating his €70,000 severance payment to the Jack and Jill Foundation. Video: Bryan O'Brien

Fri, May 23, 2014, 01:00

Investigating ineptitude in the Department of Justice, dysfunction in the Garda and the mysterious departure of a commissioner: millions.

Giving the minister for justice the elbow: €70,000.

Presenting a sizeable donation to a very deserving charity: €50,000.

Giving the two fingers to Brendan Howlin and Enda Kenny and bolstering Alan Shatter’s ego: priceless.

There are some things a retiring minister can buy.

For everything else . . . there’s always the paying public.

Who wouldn’t be happy for the Jack & Jill Foundation – a wonderful organisation that helps terminally ill children and their families? Theirs is a constant struggle for funds (State assistance is scant), as they daily witness distraught parents barely able to cope and now facing the withdrawal of medical cards. They need money, lots of it.

The foundation, set up by Jonathan Irwin and his wife Mary Ann O’Brien, richly deserves the cash they were given yesterday. But forgive us if we don’t pin a medal on their surprise benefactor, who shamelessly milked his generous personal gift of public money with a preening display before the assembled media. Alan Shatter, Philanthropist of the Plinth. Oh, but he was enjoying himself yesterday.

Crisis of his own making Much too much. Making a drama out of a crisis of his own making. He emerged from Leinster House, an understandably delighted Irwin and O’Brien by his side, like he was starring in an episode of The Secret Millionaire. As he sauntered down the plinth to the bank of cameras and microphones, Shatter couldn’t help looking thoroughly pleased with himself.

“We’re all very professional, aren’t we?” he smiled at the waiting journalists, before going on to explain how the resignation golden handshake he agreed in Cabinet to abolish would stand as a legacy to their “very important” decision.

He noted the Government voted to get rid of this ridiculous “severance” entitlement at a time when people are in financial stress. The State needs every cent it can get. But for some strange reason Brendan Howlin didn’t get around to signing the order to bring the legislation into effect.

A matter that Alan couldn’t help mentioning more than once. When news broke earlier this week that he was entitled to this loophole €70,000, his ministerial colleagues said they were sure he would return it to the State. Alan said nothing.

Then, early yesterday morning, he announced he would deliver his decision at a press conference in the afternoon. And this, on the eve of the elections. The rumour machine went into overdrive. If he was not going to take the payoff, wouldn’t he just issue a press release?

The fact he was making such a palaver about it led some to believe that he would announce his intention and then do something spectacular, such as resign his seat. Fine Gael hadn’t a clue what he was going to do. The press office couldn’t help. There were a lot of worried FG people around yesterday. Out he duly came, party officials watching from a discreet distance, to tell all.