The McCabe scandal - A criminal investigation is necessary

THE arrangements agreed yesterday between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his supply-and-demand colleague Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin have restored a degree of stability at Leinster House. 

The immediate, almost-out-of-control situation has been temporarily calmed but the potential of the McCabe scandal to wreak havoc remains as high as ever, possibly even more so as a proposal for a public rather than a secret tribunal of inquiry has been agreed.

That that inquiry may be limited to a tight timeframe adds to that impression. The save-the-day deal averted what looked like a near-certain election. Nevertheless, Mr Kenny’s performance over the last few days will put further pressure on his leadership. That he had to admit to the Dáil yesterday that he was wrong to say Minister Katherine Zappone had told him she was meeting Sgt McCabe last week adds to that pressure. Even the most benign assessment of his declaration — “I might say mea culpa — I am guilty here of not giving accurate information” — must acknowledge at least incompetence. Neither of his immediate predecessors — Brian Cowen nor Bertie Ahern — would have enjoyed much latitude in a similar situation. Their integrity would have been challenged and it is hard to see how Mr Kenny can expect not to face a similar fate. How he, and his party, responds will be definitive.

Despite presenting a united front to stave off Sinn Féin’s no-confidence motion — one that has morphed into a strident demand for an election — Mr Martin was critical of Mr Kenny and said his Government had “handled the issue very badly and it needed to move quickly to make it right”.

That Fianna Fáil has not exploited this weakness confirms that they, no more than the majority in the Dáil, are not enthused by the idea of a March election. Who, apart from Sinn Féin, would be?

Despite that drama, despite the grandstanding so many of our politicians — and commentators — seem unable to resist, these temporary difficulties are almost irrelevant in the context of the scandal generated by Sgt McCabe’s foundation-shaking allegations stretching over recent days, months and years. The allegations are so toxic, so appalling that they must be repeated like an opaque mantra to try to grasp their full import: It is alleged, but not confirmed, that senior Garda officers, officers who swore to protect this State and its Constitution, orchestrated a dishonest, vile campaign to vilify a colleague and that they may have involved another State agency to achieve that objective.

Even a morning after the President of the United States had to accept the resignation of his national security advisor Mike Flynn because of an inappropriate conversation with Russian diplomats; even on a morning when it is suggested that David Petraeus, a retired general who leaked classified information to his mistress, is being considered as Flynn’s replacement the McCabe allegations pointing to such a widespread conspiracy, containing some possibly criminal components, are utterly chilling.A public inquiry may be agreed but a criminal investigation led by officers from outside An Garda Síochána is essential. Let the heavens fall if they will.

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