After the big confidence debate in the Dail passed with the abstention of Fianna Fail, it does seem that we have a result. It’s looking like the Taoiseach’s ‘false memory’ of a conversation with one of his independent minister has done for him.
In reality, it exposes the extent to which Enda Kenny has been reliant on his advisors that he misremembered him having a conversation which in reality happened only between his advisors and those of Katherine Zappone.
The consensus now inside FG appears to be that he will be allowed to see out a reasonable period (which will include this year’s trip to the White House at St Patrick’s day, but that within the next few months he will hand on to a successor.
Fionnan Sheahan puts his finger on several matters relating:
Mr Kenny has a troubling habit of going walkabout when he goes off script.
Even staunch loyalists were appalled by the hames he made of his ‘imagined’ conversation with Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone on her meeting with Mr McCabe and how it precipitated his troubles. “He f***ed up famously. It’s quite sad,” a minister observed.
How exactly his advisers allowed him to go on RTÉ so badly prepared, without having clear answers ready, and then walk into a slaughter in the Dáil is a question being asked in the party.
It’s being put down to a case of ‘bubbleitis’, where those inside Government Buildings lose touch with the outside world.
Moreover, what has finally caught up with Mr Kenny is his innate conservatism. He is not and never has been a great reformer who would sweep change through the system. His failure to get to grips with the Garda culture has haunted his administration.
In many ways, he is the last man standing from a controversy that has dogged his term in power. He too is about to be toppled.
As Gerald Howlin notes how in Ireland the art of opposition is a very delicate thing. And he offers an important lesson from the recent past:
There is insurmountable evidence of complacency and incompetence but there has been no attempt to block the establishment of an inquiry with the powers and terms of reference required to establish the truth and provide justice. The Taoiseach has confirmed to me that he is willing to support an inquiry of the type that Sergeant McCabe is correctly calling for.
But (and there’s something of an obsession within the LH bubble on this matter), so far as running to the exit, Martin has laid down the parameters (if not precise conditions for such a move):
My party’s priorities are to address this scandal and help our country overcome the many challenges it faces. There is no evidence that an immediate election would do this. We will abide by our agreement.
However, there is a point after which all good faith efforts to make this Dáil work will have failed and there will be no alternative but to have an election. That point is much closer today than it was last week.
Some Fianna Failers are concerned that Martin could have taken this exit off the current merry-go-round. That somehow the next leader of the Fine Gael party will blindside them, and perhaps the optimum moment for betrayal has been let pass too soon.
The fact is that the party is constrained by the damning nature of its own past not to be seen as the betrayer in this drama. Doing the right thing (in its own terms at least) has been Martin’s touchstone from the Fiscal Compact onwards. And it seems to be working.
If it is embarrassing for FF frontbenchers to hold the line between government and the sort of periodic self-indulgent chaos we’ve witnessed in Northern Ireland, then it barely shows on their faces. More to the point, it doesn’t show negatively in the polls.
Fine Gael have been disadvantaged from the outset by their sheer lack of time inside government since the establishment of the state. It’s a hard political station, not least during the political period the country has just come through.
Fianna Fail’s agreement was with Fine Gael the party, not Enda the leader. So the party will continue to exercise the same fealty they have up to now. As we’ve seen from the Labour party’s hideously oversold politics in the run in to the 2011 election, speed can kill.
There is no more appetite in the Republic for a second election in one year than there is in Northern Ireland for the sham exercise we’re all being frogmarched through at pace. There’s work to be done, and there’s still enough elected politicians with the appetite to get on with it.