Monday 29 May 2017

From Kenny to Zappone, and from McCabe to Fitzgerald: the winners and losers after a scarcely-credible week of controversy

From left to right: Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan, Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe
From left to right: Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan, Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe

Cormac McQuinn and John Downing

AFTER a week of controversy - here's where the main players stand:

Enda Kenny, Taoiseach

Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a Jobs announcement at Indeed's Headquarters on St Stephens Green. Pic Steve Humphreys
Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a Jobs announcement at Indeed's Headquarters on St Stephens Green. Pic Steve Humphreys

His departure as Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader may well be accelerated by the whistleblower affair. His bungling of the account of his contacts with Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone on the matter led to an embarrassing “mea culpa” in the Dáil. With a Fine Gael councillor openly questioning his continued leadership on Liveline, and backbench TD Noel Rock previously calling for a timetable for his departure, it seems only be a matter of time before Mr Kenny has to leave the stage.

Frances Fitzgerald, Tanaiste

Her chance of succeeding Enda Kenny as Fine Gael leader has suffered perhaps a fatal blow. She has been justice minister for more than two years yet failed to bring the various whistleblower controversies to anything resembling a satisfactory conclusion. Already trailing Leo Vardakar and Simon Coveney in the leadership stakes the events of the last week are likely to have dashed her chances.

Katherine Zappone, Children's Minister

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone speaks to journalists on the plinth in Leinster House. Photo: Damien Eagers
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone speaks to journalists on the plinth in Leinster House. Photo: Damien Eagers

The first-time Independent TD got a lesson in playing in the big leagues. There was an error last week when she left unanswered questions in her statement – sent while she was in the United States - on the Tusla file. She found herself isolated by Fine Gael ministers but she pulled things back somewhat when she revealed upon her return that she had told the Taoiseach about the bogus file before last Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. She will have learned from the experience.

Micheál Martin, leader of Fianna Fail 

The view that the Fianna Fáil leader is pulling the strings of the minority government has been bolstered. There was no better demonstration of this than the Taosieach’s brief remarks that he’d be meeting Mr Martin to discuss the whistleblower issue – as he tried to brush by reporters on Monday evening. Mr Martin is increasingly looking like the next Taoiseach.

Jim O’Callaghan, justice spokesman Fianna Fail

Jim O'Callaghan says he met with Frances Fitzgerald on Wednesday
Jim O'Callaghan says he met with Frances Fitzgerald on Wednesday

The Fianna Fáil justice spokesman, as a Dáil newcomer, has gained valuable public profile. Managed to stand his ground well, without degenerating into unpleasantness, in a direct face-off with the Justice Minister about totally different versions of an important  conversation between the pair. He gains from the experience.

Sgt Maurice McCabe, Garda whistleblower

Emerges with complete vindication and with major public sympathy following shamefully false allegations against him. Furthermore, he has gone from being a political pariah to being a major political force. The worst of his nightmare is now over and he can look forward to reparations for the damage done him and his family.

Nóirín O'Sullivan, Garda Commissioner

Remains under extreme pressure as she resists persistent calls from the opposition benches that she stand aside without prejudice until all allegations are investigated. Fianna Fáil support for her continuance in office was crucial. Now that seems less certain.

Superintendent Dave Taylor, Garda whistleblower

The beginning of the end of a 21-month ordeal for the former head of the garda press office. His suspension on reduced pay has ended and he has been reinstated after being cleared of allegations of leaking sensitive information to the media. But he still faces a test as he must tell his version of the smear campaign against Sgt McCabe.

Superintendent Dave Taylor gets ready at his home to go back to work at Dublin Castle.
Superintendent Dave Taylor gets ready at his home to go back to work at Dublin Castle.

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