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Dublin: 17 °C Tuesday 16 July, 2019

'The fish rots from the head': 5 winners and 5 losers from the political week

One or two things were happening in Leinster House this week and, as ever, there are winners and losers at the end of it…

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar was excited about something at Farmleigh House this week
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar was excited about something at Farmleigh House this week
Image: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/Press Association Images

EVERY WEEK, casts its eye over events inside and outside Leinster House that have got people talking.

As the saying goes: ‘You win some, you lose some.’

So here are our political winners and losers from the past seven days:

The 5 winners of the week are…

1. Alan Shatter

The Justice Minister is now the great survivor of this three-year-old government (yes, even more so than James Reilly) given the controversies he has weathered. Make no mistake, Shatter still has A LOT of questions to answer about what he knew, when he knew it and why it took so long for him to be told about a letter that arrived in his department over two weeks before he got sight of it.

But his apology to the garda whistleblowers (above) on the penalty points issue alleviated concerns among Labour ministers and he has the backing of the Cabinet, as well as many backbenchers – for now. But with several reports on various garda controversies due out in the coming weeks Shatter may well be forced back into a corner from which he will be unable to emerge.

2. John Halligan

In any other week, the independent TD’s proposal to force burglars to pay reparations to their victims would have generated some good coverage for him but alas events, dear boy, events. The Restorative Justice Reparation to Victims Bill was another example of a decent and sensible legislative proposal being proposed by the opposition benches but, unfortunately for Halligan, the government wasn’t so keen.

3. Leo Varadkar

The Transport Minister may not have been prepared to answer questions about whether he thought it was right the Garda Commissioner resigned/retired, but it’s clear that his call on Martin Callinan to withdraw the ‘disgusting’ remarks put the Commissioner in a pickle.

Varadkar has for months smartly positioned himself on the side of the whistleblowers, something the public can clearly see and likely admire him for. Certainly of all the ministers embroiled in the gardagate debacle he comes out best, even if he’s still confused by it all:

4. David Hall

However, Leo won’t be happy about the high-profile mortgage campaigner David Hall being likely to throw his hat into the ring for the Dublin West by-election (Varadkar’s constituency) whenever it takes place. Hall has built up quite the profile in recent months as an outspoken critic of the banks and how they’re handling mortgage. He will fancy his chances as an independent candidate for a seat where neither Fine Gael nor Labour are expected to be favourite.

5. Eamon Gilmore

Clearly, not all is rosy in the garden for the coalition right now but the Tánaiste and Labour ministers secured a significant concession from the Justice Minister with his apology to the whistleblowers this week. In a way, Gilmore’s comments on Monday made it abundantly clear that Shatter had to give way on the whistleblower issue and so it transpired.

Another significant, but largely ignored, win for Labour this week was the government’s commitment to set up an independent police authority, something which the party has wanted for years.

… and the 5 losers of the week are…

1. Patrick Nulty

The now former independent TD may have benefited from the gardagate controversy overshadowing his resignation last weekend, but it seems likely that more revelations will emerge, particularly from the paper that broke the story, the Sunday World.

Already this week he has to contend with more allegations and more evidence of inappropriate and explicit comments towards, in some cases, vulnerable constituents. Nulty may be gone, but this isn’t the last we’ve heard of this sorry story.

2. The opposition


Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have both been calling for Alan Shatter to go for weeks, but they failed to land any killer punches this week and the responses of both parties’ justice spokespersons, Niall Collins and Padraig MacLochlainn (above) respectively, to Alan Shatter on Wednesday were poor. Contrast them with Mick Wallace’s compelling ’30 bullet points as to why the Minister should resign’ and you can see why this hasn’t been a good week for the opposition in trying to point out the very obvious problems in government.

3. Enda Kenny

Huge questions remain about the sequence of events between Sunday morning, when the Taoiseach spoke with the Attorney General on the telephone, and Monday evening when the secretary general of the Department of Justice was dispatched to the Garda Commissioner’s house.

Why didn’t Kenny immediately consult his Justice Minister when he was told about the various serious claims of calls in and out of garda stations being recorded for decades? It appears there are some questions Kenny just doesn’t want to answer:

4. Gerry Adams

It didn’t get a whole lot of coverage given other events, but the Sinn Féin president found himself dealing with issues from the past once again this week. He took the unusual step of contacting the PSNI through his solicitor to see if they wished to talk to him about the murder of Jean McConville – a crime he has consistently denied any involvement in.

He also took aim at the Boston College project which has apparently led to the charging of Ivor Bell, a former IRA member, for aiding and abetting McConville’s murder in 1972. There are sure to be more developments on this in the coming weeks.

5. Michael Noonan

The government’s attempts to get the veteran finance minister, and a former justice minister who had his own phone tapping controversy to deal with the in 1980s, to go out to bat for Shatter on Tuesday night backfired somewhat when he resorted to various assumptions about what might have happened and why it took so long for the Justice Minister to be briefed on matters.


Noonan resorted to pointing out that Shatter was in Mexico for some of the 16 days it took between the Garda Commissioner’s now crucial letter reaching the Department of Justice and it coming before the minister’s eyes.

“Maybe they didn’t think it was important at the time,” he said of the officials’ reaction. Not the best explanation given the explosive contents of the letter.

Like politics? Then why not ‘Like’’s Politics page?

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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