Alan Shatter TD and Minister for Justice is a solicitor with a proven track record, particularly in the area of family law. It is ironic then that such an able legal mind should have perhaps committed such a basic legal faux-pas that would threaten the future of his political career. It remains to be seen whether any offence will be deemed to have been committed but even to place himself in a situation where the question can be asked shows a lack of judgment on the part of the Minister. Surely a man of Shatter’s experience and standing would realize that the use of privileged information in a political context is exceedingly dangerous.
I sympathize with his frustration in sharing a platform with Mick Wallace who to my mind belongs anywhere but in public office, but that was the will of the people in our democracy, which all politicians, Shatter included, are sworn to uphold. The Minister should know better than to let himself be risen by such buffoonery.
And yet Shatter’s response has been anything but conciliatory. His familiar arrogance has been to the fore as he has tried to bluster his way out of an exceedingly tight corner. I am quite certain that the Minister knows that he has at best pushed the boundaries of his office to a new limit and at worst may have committed an offence under data protection legislation.
So why does he not simply apologize to Mick Wallace and the Irish people for overstepping the boundaries of his office? Surely one such as he who has devoted his professional life to the law, its formation and enforcement would not wish (no matter how arrogant he is) to stand over actions which if condoned would undermine the basis of our democracy. Surely even he would eat a little humble pie for the sake of the Law. I use capital letters for Law here intentionally because I do believe he would see it as one of the pillars of our society.
So why not hold his hands up and ask for forgiveness? I think this is the nub of the matter. He knows that there will be no forgiveness. To admit to having, however inadvertently, broken the law is career suicide. That will be the end of Alan Shatter TD and Minister for Justice and it will be not only his loss but ours too for he has made a considerable contribution to Irish politics and law in his lifetime. It will indeed be a sad end if this does prove to be his nemesis.
However as long as Shatter persists in defending the indefensible he will simultaneously diminish the democratic capital of this State. However provoked we cannot allow those with such weighty responsibility to abuse their privileged status for political point scoring. This is a dangerous precedent and one which must be stopped in its tracks! As it stands the best solution for the ongoing integrity of our democracy would be that the Minister would relinquish office.
I wish it were other, but in an unforgiving society there is no alternative. I wish we lived in a society where people could admit to mistakes and failures and be allowed the opportunity to learn from them. I would much prefer to have Alan Shatter continue in office, having eaten the necessary humble pie, and through the whole experience grow in stature and integrity. But that will never be unless things change radically and we abandon the culture of spin and systems failure where nobody is ever responsible for anything or anyone. In the meantime in this imperfect world I hope the Minister does the right thing.