Fennelly highlights ruthlessness of the Taoiseach when the chips are down

Published 08/09/2015 | 00:00

Horrendous', 'wrong' - call it what they might, those at the sharp end of the Taoiseach's actions in the escalating controversy over the business of law and order in Ireland soon found themselves slumped on their swords.

All the extraordinary details of the interim report of the Fennelly Commission point towards a Taoiseach utterly adept in the ruthless, black arts of civil governance.

This is not to say that Taoiseach Enda Kenny is nothing other than a ruthless master of politics. He is clearly a decent and compassionate man on a personal level. But his nice-guy persona belies a real student of the tough side of politics, a man who has learned the hard lessons well over his 40-year-long career.

Senior justice department mandarin Brian Purcell, who delivered the gravity of the situation to the Garda Commissioner at his home in what Purcell believed was 'wrong', has departed the post.

Martin Callinan is now a former Garda Commissioner, of course, leaving, as he felt, with no option but to step down after that night. Alan Shatter - who also summed up the situation as 'horrendous' in a text to Purcell that night - is no longer Justice Minister. But Enda Kenny remains leader of the country, now facing into a general election with some justified optimism.

The report found, of course, that the 'Taoiseach did not intend to put pressure on the Garda Commissioner to retire'. It also found, of course, that Callinan believed he had 'in all the circumstances, no option but to retire', yet found the decision to retire 'was his'.

Every political bone in the Taoiseach's body must tell him how right he was to dispatch Purcell to the Garda's home that night. It was a move that very nearly flaunted the constitution, which requires the collective authority of the cabinet to seek something as serious as the resignation of the country's head garda.

But 'very nearly' might as well read 'not at all' when it comes to the messy business of protecting power from the storm. That was the bottom line of the Taoiseach's actions at the height of the ongoing garda controversy. Callinan's resignation was certainly a calming influence on the debacle, with Shatter's departure little over a month later and the advent of the force's first female head thereafter going a long way to reinstate some 'síochán' back into the Garda Síochána saga.

It was an extraordinary process of political wrangling to extricate the highest office in the land from the deafening blizzard of serious concerns over law and order - penalty points, whistleblowers, GSOC 'bugging' and the potential fallout over the garda tapes revelations that so clearly panicked the Taoiseach.

None of it has clearly done much for the gardaí and the citizens of the country with crime in rural areas at an all time high and morale within the force at an all time low.

The report of the Fennelly Commission has opened an unprecedented, contemporaneous window into the governance of the country.

We can clearly see, on the record, how messy and Taoiseach-centred the running of the country is when the chips are down.

Wexford People

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