Sunday

28th May 2017

Ireland: Enda Kenny's last shindig

  • Kenny at the White House in 2012 (Photo: whitehouse.gov)

The Irish state has opened an inquiry into a police scandal in what marks the final chapter of Enda Kenny’s reign as taoiseach.

The Charleton Tribunal, launched on Monday (27 February), is to investigate allegations that a police whistleblower was the victim of a high-level smear campaign.

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  • Trump protectionism could cause economic shock (Photo: whitehouse.gov)

Sergeant Maurice McCabe first complained about malpractice in serious crime investigations about 10 years ago.

His revelations fell on deaf ears and he was slandered as a sexual predator, with Ireland’s police commissioner, who had called McCabe “disgusting”, forced to resign in the affair.

Kenny, among other irregularities in run-up to the Charleton inquiry, gave “inaccurate information” to the Irish parliament, something which he later admitted to in a “mea culpa”.

The fiasco further harmed his ability to lead his party and country at a time of uncertainty.

The Irish peace process and its economic future have been put under a question mark by Brexit.

US trade protectionism under Donald Trump could also cause a shock.

Kenny’s centre-right party, Fine Gael (FG), had already returned mixed results in last February’s election.

An Irish cabinet member, who asked not to be named, told EUobserver that there was an anti-Kenny bloc in FG that wanted “fresh-thinking” even before his Charleton performance.

Losing credibility

Kenny’s handling of the situation saw Sinn Fein, the second largest opposition party, trigger a vote of no confidence in the government.

Even FG deputies admitted that Kenny had failed to give a “clear account of what happened".

"I didn’t keep a proper count, but there were around eight, 10, or 12 changes in the sequences of events told to us,” one Fine Gael MP, who also asked not to be named, told EUobserver.

Kenny relied on an abstention by Fianna Fail, the main opposition party, to scrape through by 57 votes to 52, but lost so much credibility that calls rang out for him to go.

Last Wednesday, the FG held internal talks to give him an opportunity to fall on his sword.

Last shindig

According to sources at the meeting, Kenny raised the issue first.

The 65-year old said that he had “been around for 42 years” (he is the longest-ever serving MP) and that he had “no interest” in “motions of no confidence, caucuses, and veiled threats” about his future.

He promised to announce his resignation no later than one month after St. Patrick’s Day on 17 March.

That timeline would see him take part in one last Irish-US “shindig” - an annual party at the White House.

It would also see him become Fine Gael’s longest-ever serving taoiseach if he stayed on a little later until 20 April.

“He was never going to give a date arising from demands of back-benchers. He would never dance to that tune”, another FG deputy told EUobserver.

“He said enough to save face … it gave the impression that he was in control of his destiny,” the MP added.

Succesion battle

The FG’s internal succession talks have favoured two candidates: the minister for social protection, Leo Varadkar (36), and the minister for housing, Simon Coveney (44).

Meanwhile, Irish pundits and TV shows are already writing Kenny’s political obituary.

His fans point to his battles at EU summits to secure an interest cut on the EU and International Monetary Fund’s €85 billion bailout back in 2010.

They also note that his departure comes after Irish employment figures bounced back to their best level since the financial crisis.

“He got Ireland out the bailout and back on our feet,” an FG deputy said.

That achievement was “nothing too prosaic”, the MP said.

Irish unification on voters' minds

The question of whether to hold a post-Brexit referendum on a united Ireland is dominating Thursday's elections in the North.

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