Dáil sharks smell blood as gutless Kenny flounders

Enda Kenny was a Taoiseach in freefall.

Dáil sharks smell blood as gutless Kenny flounders

He flailed around like a fish on a slab, gasping for oxygen as the blades kept raining down to gut him.

The faces of squirming TDs behind the Taoiseach told their own story: Their expressions veered from embarrassment to fear that their leader could appear so out of touch with the national mood on such an emotive subject.

Yet again poorly advised by the inner circle on which he leans so heavily, and lacking the confidence or basic political emotional intelligence to over-ride them, Mr Kenny had nobody but himself to blame.

He had been poor and rambling in leader’s questions when the findings of the Magdalene Laundries inquiry broke on Tuesday, but this was a new level of desperation.

“His worst ever performance as Taoiseach,” said one normally loyal backbencher later.

“I think we’ll have a new leader sooner than we thought now,” said a veteran of the failed 2010 heave, suddenly sporting renewed hope of Blueshirt regime change.

Straining to appear calm, Mr Kenny’s body language betrayed his inner feelings. Flashes of genuine anger crossed the Taoiseach’s face as he clasped his hands tensely and contorted his shoulders and upper body in frustration.

He couldn’t say it, but Mr Kenny knew he was in the wrong — he just did not know how to put it right.

Mr Kenny is essentially a decent, sincere man, who is, no doubt, genuinely upset at the anxiety and pain his refusal to apologise on behalf of the State has caused the survivors of the Magdalene regime.

But with his ill-judged initial stance, the Taoiseach has boxed himself into a corner. Though the apology will eventually arrive, now it will not come until the Dáil debate Mr Kenny has scheduled on the scandal for two weeks hence.

Mr Kenny cannot say it now because he believes to do so would lose political face. But, by clinging on to such an unsustainable position for so long, he risks losing a whole lot more.

In an unbecoming bid to deflect criticism, Mr Kenny accused Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, and Independent TD Mattie McGrath of political “opportunism”.

He just made it look like it was the Taoiseach who was the one playing party politics with such a delicate, non-political, issue.

His attack on of Sinn Féin’s “cruelty” at taking 17 years to apologise for the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe might have been fair game in a knock-about law and order debate, but its deployment here merely demeaned the matter at hand.

It was desperate stuff from a man desperate to stumble out of leader’s questions still in one piece.

Is it really wise for Fine Gael to try and find some kind of moral equivalence between Mr Kenny’s failure to apologise and Sinn Féin’s disgraceful record on the McCabe killing?

In a stinging reference to Micheal Collins, Sinn Féin’s Pádraig Mac Lochlainn shot back across the chamber: “Who founded your party? Gandhi? Martin Luther King?”

Floundering further as he tried to talk out the time and flee the furore, at one point Mr Kenny referred to the victims of the Magdalene horror as “young girls and women who were in many cases emotionally challenged”. The collective cringe from the Coalition benches was almost palpable. Mr Kenny’s worst Dáil work as Taoiseach.

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