Shattered island

The news was announced in Dáil Éireann this afternoon that Alan Shatter TD has resigned as Minister for Justice and Defence. Beyond the immediate political fall-out, this potentially calls into question pending and proposed reforms within the Department of Justice, including immigration and family reforms.

Waiting In Line For a Job - Fine Gael's Public meeting at the Aviva Stadium, 20th February 2011 (detail). Image: © William Murphy

Waiting In Line For a Job: Fine Gael’s Public meeting at the Aviva Stadium, 20th February 2011 (detail). Image: © William Murphy/infomatique (CC Licence)

The announcement was made by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, in the Dáil chamber, in light of Sean Guerin SC submitting his 300-page report on Garda whistleblowers. RTÉ has a copy of Alan Shatter’s letter of resignation here. The Guerin report is due to be published on Friday of this week.

Kenny told the Dáil that he accepted Shatter’s resignation “with regret,” and that the decision to resign was made “in light” of the Guerin report. The report, according to Enda Kenny, recommends the establishment of a statutory inquiry, and found that the Alan Shatter was inadequate in his statutory duties as Minister.

In many ways, Shatter’s resignation seemed inevitable: between the scandal over Garda whistleblowers, GSOC revelations, the penalty points controversy, the related findings of the Data Protection Commissioner earlier this week, and now the imminent publication of Sean Guerin’s report, his position as Minister for Justice could only be seen as untenable. Indeed, as Alan Shatter acknowledged in his letter of resignation:

I am anxious that any controversy that may arise on publication of the [Guerin] Report does not distract from the important work of Government or create any difficulties for the Fine Gael or Labour Parties in the period leading into the European and Local Government elections. […]

As pointed out by Fergal Keane on RTÉ Radio 1’s Drivetime this evening, this is the third individual to step down in light of the Garda whistle blower scandal: the confidential recipient, Oliver Connolly; Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan; and now Alan Shatter TD.

The fall-out from Shatter’s resignation will be wide ranging, not just in party political terms.

Despite his failings in the area of policing, as per Enda Kenny’s summary of the Guerin report’s findings, Alan Shatter was a reforming Minister for Justice in other areas under his remit.

Although many will argue convincingly that there was much more to be done, Alan Shatter implemented important and overdue immigration reforms. In addition, he was a driving force behind family law reforms, not least in relation to recognising diverse family forms and the push for marriage equality. The Children’s Rights Alliance has stated: “The Children and Family Relationships Bill represents the most important area of family law reform for a generation.”

His departure will be a serious loss to advocates and campaigners in these areas, as well as to sympathetic Labour party colleagues.

As discussed on RTÉ Drivetime this evening, Shatter was among Enda Kenny’s strongest allies in Cabinet, and it may be that An Taoiseach will seek out a similarly friendly face to take up the now vacant Ministerial post. Among the names mentioned was Fine Gael stalwart, Charlie Flanagan TD. ELsewhere, UTV journalist Ken Reid has suggested on Twitter that Frances Fitzgerald might be the favourite, with Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney also receiving a mention.

Those stakeholders who welcomed Shatter’s reforming ways will no doubt anxiously await news of Enda Kenny’s appointment of Alan Shatter’s replacement tonight.

Update (7:25pm)

The Irish Council if Civil Liberties issued this statement at 5:45pm.


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