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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C
shatter resistant

'When you tell the truth in politics you get into trouble - but the truth helps me sleep at night'

Alan Shatter opens up on the controversies that forced him to resign, Leo Varadkar and whether he says ‘hello’ to Mick Wallace.

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Stuff happens in politics.

THIS IS HOW Alan Shatter responds when asked if it rankles with him that he’ll be remembered as a controversial and divisive justice minister.

This May will mark two years since the Fine Gael TD resigned as justice minister after reading just three chapters of the Guerin report into alleged malpractice in An Garda Síochána.

The report was a tipping point for Shatter. The various controversies that had dogged the minister formed a perfect storm, leaving him with no choice but to go as the local and European elections approached.

At the time, Fine Gael backbenchers were reporting back from the doorsteps that Shatter had become an issue. He doesn’t have much time for idle speculation by unnamed colleagues, but he does feel vindicated by what has happened subsequently:

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“I’m happy that, in the context of some of the controversies that occurred, we now have independent reports that have established that what I said at the time was true, that I behaved appropriately and dealt with things properly as a minister,” Shatter told this week.

He’s referring to the Fennelly report, which confirmed his version of events leading up to the controversial departure of the garda commissioner, and the Cooke report into allegations that the Garda Ombudsman’s offices were bugged. He continued:

Unfortunately, I discovered in politics on occasions when you tell the truth you get into trouble. But, you know, the truth helps me sleep at night and it means that people who truly know me know I can be trusted. I’m happy with that.

The past doesn’t interest Shatter much and whenever we try and delve into it his answers inevitably conclude with talking about the future.

“I’m not obsessing on these things. I’m interested in where we go in the future,” he said.

But did he get anything wrong during his three-year spell at the Department of Justice?

Nicky Ryan /

Shatter insisted that “no one gets everything right” before spending some time talking, again, about how he has been vindicated.

He acknowledges that he could have ordered independent inquiries into some controversies sooner. However, he added:

I took the view that before inquiries are conducted you should get preliminary observations in relation to issues of importance and you have to take account of the cost to the public, and the public finances, because whenever any inquiry is held it always costs the public millions in State funding.

On the current state of the gardaí, Shatter has no “negative views of any nature” about current commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and hopes reforms recommended by a Garda Inspectorate report last year will be implemented without delay.

He’s less complimentary about the current state of the health service, saying Fine Gael, while doing well on the economy, has not done enough in health:

I think there’s a need to have better oversight, better management, more incisive responses within the health service. I am very disappointed that we still have difficulties with A&Es.

On the current health minister, Shatter is lukewarm in his praise of Leo Varadkar:

Nicky Ryan /

He’s far more forthcoming on his constituency rival Shane Ross, who is effectively the leader of the Independent Alliance.

Shatter has little time for the grouping of independent election candidates, arguing that their charter of principles is nothing more than “the promises and commitments that reflects the sort of same old politics of the Fianna Fáil party at elections two decades ago”.

They present themselves as something new but it’s the same old same old politics that got us into the sort of trouble and difficulties that gave rise to the collapse.

He has no time either for the independent TD Mick Wallace, his old foe from the days when penalty points dominated the news agenda.

wallaceshatter RTÉ RTÉ

Wallace claims that, even though the pair no longer spar in the Dáil, Shatter doesn’t say ‘hello’ in the corridors of Leinster House. Shatter insists it’s not true before adding:

Look, I’m not going to waste time on Mick Wallace.

Shatter also has little time for the perception that permeates the political bubble that he is arrogant and aloof.

“Unfortunately in politics, on occasion, people who you believe to be colleagues have their own personal agendas. But I believe that anyone who truly knows me has never perceived me that way,” he said.

Whatever others might say about him he does hope the people of Dublin-Rathdown will re-elect him to the Dáil later this month.

His political career looked over after he lost his seat in 2002 only to regain it five years later. He was also thought to be in danger of not winning the party’s nomination for the election this time around – but he did.

Now it’s widely felt that Shatter’s ministerial career is over, but he still harbours ambitions of being back in cabinet should he win re-election.

“I don’t think there’s a politician on any side of the Dáil who doesn’t aspire to be in cabinet,” he added.

Read: Alan Shatter told us all about his famous campaign balls

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