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Enda badly needs to rediscover old survival instincts

HAS the Taoiseach lost his survival instinct? During Enda Kenny's nine years as leader of the opposition, he was often on the brink of being toppled, but stayed one step ahead of the pack every time.

Perhaps all those near misses lulled him into a false sense of security – because now he has landed himself up to his neck in Gardagate just as much as Alan Shatter or anyone else.

A couple of weekend developments have left Kenny looking more vulnerable than ever.

The latest opinion poll shows Fine Gael and Labour dropping five points between them, resulting in their lowest level of support since the 2011 general election.

PROBLEM

This would be bad news at any time, but it must make both government parties particularly nervous now that the local and European are barely seven weeks away.

Kenny also has a much more immediate problem.

The former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan has let it be known through associates that he was shocked and hurt by the Taoiseach's decision to send a senior civil servant to his house last Monday evening.

After being told that the government was deeply uneasy about the revelations of secret garda recordings that were about to break, Callinan felt he had no option but to resign early on Tuesday morning.

To put it mildly, this does not exactly tally with the official story that Kenny was spouting all last week. Not only did the Taoiseach get extremely angry in the Dail when he was accused of sacking the Commissioner, he also insisted that Callinan's departure was entirely the man's own decision.

Callinan became a sacrificial lamb to spare the government's blushes, even though he behaved impeccably in trying to bring the garda bugging problem to Alan Shatter's attention.

There have also been reports that he wanted to withdraw his 'disgusting' comments about the actions of garda whistleblowers but was persuaded not to by officials from the Department of Justice, which, of course, has been denied.

While Enda Kenny's story may be full of holes, one thing is beyond dispute. When the Taoiseach was briefed about illegal garda tape recordings on March 23, he took full control of the situation himself.

He did not even consult Labour leader Eamon Gilmore for a full 36 hours, by which time Martin Callinan had already been thrown under the bus.

In other words, Kenny must accept personal responsibility for the chaotic and sinister developments of the past week.

He will also be directly in the firing line if any more evidence emerges to contradict the version of events supplied by himself and Alan Shatter.

On Wednesday Fianna Fail are due to table a motion of no confidence in the Minister for Justice, which may be doomed to failure but will certainly keep the controversy alive for at least another week.

Meanwhile, those 2,400 garda tapes clearly add up to one huge time bomb.

RECORDINGS

For a start, it is being claimed that some recordings will show detectives tried to frame Ian Bailey for the slaying of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier outside her West Cork holiday home in 1996.

All this is starting to have uncomfortable echoes of the way that Albert Reynolds' government was brought down 20 years ago.

Last week, Gwyneth Paltrow's split from Chris Martin gave us the wonderful new phrase 'conscious uncoupling'.

The way things are going, Enda Kenny may soon begin to wish he had consciously uncoupled from his good friend Alan Shatter a long, long time ago.


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