SHAUN CONNOLLY: Dial M for mirth: phone home, Enda, and call it a day

WHO ya gonna call? Enda-Buster! Riverdance famously makes our Taoiseach cry, so it was fittingly patriotic of him to give us all a good St Paddy’s weekend laugh with his bizarre transatlantic trilling of Carly Rae Jepsen’s song ‘Here’s My Number, Call Me Maybe.’

For those who missed the cringing moment, Mr Kenny told a Washington DC audience: “If you’ve got a problem, or you have an issue, or an anxiety, or a concern or a proposition, or a proposal, I want to hear it. My number is a public number, you can call me anytime. Citizens in other countries find it difficult to figure out how anybody can ring the PM, or the Taoiseach in my case, and say ‘I want to talk to you’. Sometimes I don’t get a chance to answer all the calls....”

So, pitching himself as a sort of national call-centre manager, we can imagine the response if we took him up on the offer, but sadly missed the jackpot moment when Mr Kenny answers his own phone: “Press ‘one’ if you are a rich Irish-American, or well-connected Fine Gael lobbyist, for instant access to the Taoiseach.

“Press ‘two’ if you are a general moany-hole bleating on about having medical cards for your sick child snatched away, hospital A-and-Es shutting down, or not being able to afford to feed your families, so you can be made to listen to several hours of that really irritating bit from Riverdance being played over and over again on a loop, until you finally hang-up in despair.

“And don’t even bother pressing ‘three’. Just hang-up immediately if you are a whistle-blower, because we are not interested in what you disgusting troublemakers are up to.”

Does Mr Kenny actually read the embarrassing scripts his flunkies draft for him, before spouting them, or did he just think we would not get to hear that crap back home?

Fun fact: the twist at the end of the video for Jepsen’s “Here’s My Number” is that the object of her desire has no intention of ever calling her because he’s gay. So, Mr Kenny better keep his guilty Jepsen-loving pleasure a secret, or he’ll be kicked out of the New York St Patrick’s Day parade, along with the Irish-American LGBT groups he is insulting by taking part in an event that pointedly excludes them.

Back home, wires were crossed, too, as executive arrogance and incompetence tripped over each other to gain most attention. The buzz words whizzing through the Dáil air we’re disgust, dysfunction and deadwood.

As the Garda crisis spread from the Garda Siochána Ombudsman’s Office to the ‘force’ itself, and the whole sorry mess melded into one in the public mind, the Rehab controversy morphed into the Flannery Affair and escalated into Lobbygate. Refusing to apologise to vindicated whistle-blower Sgt Maurice McCabe, Justice Minister Alan Shatter gracelessly announced: “I’m into problem-solving, not political point-scoring.”

The trouble is that the Minister saw McCabe, and not the widespread misuse of penalty point let-offs in a system now exposed as “dysfunctional”, as the problem and tried to denigrate McCabe.

Shatter’s sidekick in all this was none other than Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, who said the actions of Sgt McCabe and ex-garda John Wilson were “disgusting”. Grand-standing at a Public Accounts Committee meeting, where he kept referring to “my force”, Mr Callinan smugly insisted: “There isn’t a whisper anywhere else, from any other member of An Garda Siochána, about this corruption, this malpractice, and all the other things that are levelled against their fellow officers. Frankly, I think its quite disgusting.”

Bypassing the fact that the establishment was hell-bent on making examples of the whistle-blowers to prevent anyone else on the ranks from stepping out of line, it seems we got it all wrong: Mr Callinan did not mean the two whistle-blowers — now the heroes of the piece — were “disgusting” at all.

Oh no, after leaving that clear interpretation unchallenged for six, long weeks, Mr Callinan used a deeply self-serving statement, after the damning Garda Inspectorate report backed the whistle-blowers on penalty-point abuse, to insist the word “disgusting” was “not in reference to the character...but the manner in which personal and sensitive data was inappropriately appearing in the public domain without regard to due process and fair procedures.”

This despite the fact that information was not randomly blurted out on TV, but carefully handed to elected representatives in the Dáil, without whom it is unlikely this scandal would fully have come to light. Mr Shatter was quick to back up his buddy, in still banning Sgt McCabe from carrying out normal duties, such as accessing the centralised computer system. The Minister justified this by saying McCabe had been “liberally accessing confidential information on the PULSE system and distributing it to the general public.”

Self-serving, but not self-aware, neither of the two men in charge of law and order in this country sees the outrageous irony of their comments, given the event that first kicked this whole sorry affair into public consciousness a year ago.

How did it go again? Oh, yes, Commissioner Callinan gave Mr Shatter garda information that ‘anti-penalty point let-off’ TD Mick Wallace had been let off penalty points at the roadside, and the Minister then liberally tossed this, presumably confidential, information into the public domain by ambushing Wallace with it live on TV.

The upshot of the Garda Inspectorate report was a lot of grief for the Taoiseach in the Dáil.

Indeed, Mr Kenny agonised as he went through the five stages of Enda: denial, evasion, distraction, bewilderment and eventual, grudging acceptance, within the space of minutes.

With FG strategist/paid lobbyist Frank Flannery flung from the inner circle, can we expect Shatter to be told to scatter?

No British home secretary would keep their job after the run of deeply disturbing controversies over which Mr Shatter has presided.

His attempts to sully the good name of the whistle-blowers have been, to use a buzz word, disgusting.

Mr Shatter should not just apologise to Sgt McCabe. He should resign. And if he doesn’t, Mr Kenny should exercise that now infamous telephone manner of his, ring him up and say: ‘I Just Called To Say You’re Fired.’

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