He said he can do nothing.
He can do nothing to stop it, he said.
“This is a vicious and murderous dispute between two families and I do not think I can stop that,” is precisely what he told the Dáil.
It is not overstating it when I say there were gasps in the chamber when he made his comments.
This is the man who is the head of almost 300,000 state employees and who oversees an annual budget of €55bn.
The Taoiseach was speaking following the daylight murder of Gareth Hutch, a relative of renowned criminal The Monk, who was gunned down in Dublin’s North inner city. That the murder happened within 200 yards of a Garda checkpoint on Mountjoy Square added to the sense of disbelief.
Mr Kenny’s comments were not a slip of the tongue or the off-hand comments of a leader under pressure.
He was speaking clearly, unusually for him. There was no ambiguity to his comments. “I do not think I can stop that,” he said.
This was from the leader of the so-called law and order party, Fine Gael.
His admission of defeat was immediately seized upon by the opposition.
“No Government should admit defeat to these criminal gangs and there is an obligation on Government to do everything it possibly can across the board through an inter-agency response to stop it and put an end to it,” said Micheál Martin, the Fianna Fáil leader. “Governments should be clear and determined in the messaging going out to these groups that this will stop.”
Realising what he had done, Mr Kenny was forced to speedily retreat.
“I made the point that this is a vicious, murderous campaign between two families which I, as a person, cannot stop,” he said. “However, I assure Deputy Martin, the House, and the people that, as head of Government, whatever resources, facilities and backing the Garda Commissioner requests from Government to protect our citizens and to deal with this will be made available.”
But that damage was already done.
Surely, it is clear that the State’s response to the wave of killings has not been effective. Those responsible for the killings have shown their contempt for the State, for decent members of the public, and for the police, who they clearly do not fear.
Mr Martin was completely correct in his criticism of Mr Kenny’s comments that no government or state can admit defeat in the way the Taoiseach did.
Speaking to me last night, he called for the introduction of a series of mini Criminal Asset Bureaus in the areas where the drug lords loom large.
He and his colleague Willie O’Dea called for interventions similar to what happened in the wake of the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin and in Limerick.
The arrest last night of a 29-year-old man in connection with the murder showed signs that the gardaí have some idea who is involved.
But the willingness of youths as young as 12 and 13 to act as drug couriers for the chance to earn €200 shows that the battle that needs to be fought in the communities in Dublin that have been affected by this latest spate of killings.
Limerick has shown that a victory is possible, but, whatever way you look at it, yesterday was the day crime won.
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