With the likelihood of an election looming, we look at the events that have landed the Taoiseach in this position and what it means for Fine Gael
It wasn’t supposed to end like this... Enda Kenny, as the longest serving TD in the Dail, is a man with a keen sense of history. He knows he’s the first ever Fine Gael Taoiseach to get re-elected. He knows he’s within three months of becoming the party’s longest serving Taoiseach. But this weekend, he knows his leadership is coming to very swift and bitter end.
Next week, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, two of his lieutenants who have long been tipped to usurp him, will demand Kenny spells out his exit strategy immediately or face an undignified coup.
It has long been a rumour around Leinster House that Enda would be allowed to visit the United States and present the ceremonial shamrock to Donald Trump at the White House before being met on the runway by the two who will fight it out for his job.
That process has been rapidly expedited by the events of the past two weeks; events which have cast a long pallor over how the public views its institutions, politicians and law enforcement.
The Taoiseach’s incredible flubs and reversals made in a few short minutes in the Dail chamber were a sorry sight and sealed his fate as yesterday’s man in Fine Gael.
It isn’t the first time Kenny’s handling of scandals has been worthy of criticism, particularly around the Garda whistleblower issue.
His straight-up admission that he made up a meeting with his Minister Katherine Zappone reflected his muddled handling of the first crisis of his second Government.
Kenny’s previous shaggy-dog stories like the one about the “man with two pints in his hand”, the one about the taxpayers who called up to express amazement that their pay packets were boosted by his Budget, and the one about the army being called in to protect ATMs may have raised eyebrows and rolled eyes, but this is a different matter entirely.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be such a surprise that the first storm met by the shaky foundations of a minority government would lead to his departure. And one wonders now, from a Fine Gael perspective, was Leo Varadkar right to suggest, as he did after last year’s election, that Fine Gael should take another spell on the sidelines in opposition?
In any case, the Ladybird Classics-sized history book on New Politics is already being written and its final chapters will be rooted in this McCabe saga.
This controversy and a farewell tour to meet the least popular newly-elected President in recent American history is hardly the swansong Enda Kenny would have wanted and his only choice now is to avoid a humiliating exit by prolonging his party’s misery.
What next for the country? We are now facing the potential prospect of another General Election later this year.
The shift in tone around the prospect of a return the polls in 2017 is telling. TDs of all hues are actually using ‘the E word’ now. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you they’re ready for it. It takes weeks and months of candidate selection and preparation before a campaign can be fought. However, it is now clear that the fear factor of a second General Election in as many calendar years has evaporated.
It’ll be interesting to see if and when Fianna Fail decide to pull the plug on the arrangement and the sense of frustration among Fine Gael is likely to grow as the polling gap between the two parties widens.
Before we come to it, however, the uncertainty within Fine Gael is the first issue to be resolved. It’s an ironic end to the fourteen year tenure of a man for whom the word ‘stability’ became so well-worn.