Gilmore goes out on a Labour limbo for Shatter

Dáil sketch: Minister for Justice deflects questions on his starring role in the use of unrecorded Garda information

It was Eamon’s turn to defend the indefensible yesterday.

Enda set the bar low for him on Tuesday with his defence of Alan Shatter’s worrying display of indiscretion on national television last week, but the Tánaiste rose to the challenge and managed to limbo under it with inches to spare.

This was the morning after the Minister for Justice's self-serving address to the Dáil, when he grudgingly gave a half-baked apology to Mick Wallace for publicly disclosing details of a fleeting and thoroughly mundane encounter the Wexford TD had with the traffic police a year ago.

Shatter deflected questions about his starring role in the use of unrecorded Garda information against a troublesome political opponent by dumping responsibility on the Garda commissioner.


Then he muddied the waters even more by telling the Dáil how Wallace's colleague – Ming Flanagan – attempted to minimise his complicity in the quashing of penalty points by naming and blaming the people who told them how to have them removed.

Deputy Flanagan was shoving the blame on others, sneered Alan.

And he should know, as he had just done the same to the Garda Commissioner. It’s called “Doing a Shatter.”

Although Martin Callinan only has himself to blame – he must have been out of the room when they were being warned in Templemore about the dangers of idle gossip.

But back to yesterday’s leaders questions, when the Tánaiste was standing in for the Taoiseach, who was in Brussels explaining that an Apple a day helps the multinationals stay.

The Fianna Fáil leader was not happy with what Alan had to say to the Dáil the night before and he couldn't imagine how the leader of the Labour Party could be happy either.

Eamon did a few verbal stretches before sliding easily under the limbo bar.

”I think the bottom line here is that Minister Shatter has made a personal statement to the house,” declared the Tánaiste, disregarding any daft notion he might have held in innocent days of opposition that the content of a personal statement is far more important that the mere act of delivering it.

A ringing endorsement there from Eamon for Alan.

The aforementioned bottom line was sitting a few seats away from the Tanaiste, maintaining an uncharacteristic silence.

Some took this to be a display of humility. Others were of the view that the Minister for Justice was still in shock having had to concede the night before that, while he is perfect, he is not absolutely perfect, all of the time.

That’s a terrible realisation to have to come to terms with so late in life.

Pat Rabbitte sat next to him. You could see the Labour Minister for Communications was struggling with his emotions, oozing sympathy for his Coalition colleague.

But Pat tried to remain his chipper self, struggling out the occasional (broad) smile.

Yes, you could see they were hurting on the Labour side for Minister Shatter.

But one suspects not half as much as their leader, who was doing his limbo best to slide under that bar for poor Alan.

Micheál Martin repeatedly asked if he thought it right that a minister should use private information about a deputy, supplied to him by the Garda commissioner, in the way Shatter did.

Never mind what Wallace did or didn’t do, said Martin, taking the time to recall details of the arrest and handcuffing of another deputy who had raised the penalty points issue.

“I’m uncomfortable about that.”

“I think the important thing is that Minister Shatter has already dealt with this” responded the Tánaiste, reminding everyone again that the minister had not only “come into the House” but had also said “sorry.”

Mick Wallace, Clare Daly and Ming Flanagan glowered from their perches high in the opposite corner.

Gilmore straightened his back for a while. It's not easy, doing the Fine Gael limbo when you're the leader of Labour.

He admitted that there were concerns about privacy. “Issues that the Garda Siochána are dealing with should not come out into the public domain unless there’s an actual charge, or whatever, either through media or the other way.”

Alan Shatter raised his humble head, turned it slowly and cast a long, slow look at Gilmore.

Had he noticed, the Tánaiste will have been thanking his lucky stars that the Minister for Justice has assured everyone that files are not being kept on the movements of politicians.

When Gerry Adams rose to his feet and brought up the topic of the multinationals and their tax affairs here, Minister Shatter perked up. He turned to Pat Rabbitte and said something.

They laughed, and he chatted away.

But he settled down again when Clare Daly’s turn approached.

Happily for him, she addressed the wider questions posed by the handling of the penalty points issue. Shatter can hold his own on that topic, thanks to the clumsy way in which Daly and her colleagues have driven the issue.

She made only a passing reference to his speech the night before, in which the Dail “was treated to a cabaret from the Minister for Justice” who had “tied himself up in knots.” She said this was down, to some degree, by his desire to escape data protection legislation.

By now, the Tanaiste was back to dancing around Shatter’s blunder.

He went on at length about the need to protect whistleblowers and the legislation which will be brought in to ensure this.

”And in case there is any doubt, let me assure you I have confidence in the Minister for Justice. And in the Taoiseach.”

He would have to.

Shatter and the commissioner might start talking about him.

And who knows, only they know what they know…and what they don’t know won’t harm us...