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Tuesday 17 October 2017

Enda sounds a bit like truth-dodging Bertie at his worst

What a shambles. After ten days of changing stories, mealy-mouthed apologies and furious shouting matches, Enda Kenny has still not managed to put the John McNulty scandal behind him.

Instead, the Taoiseach (below) remains up to his neck in a sea of incompetence and cronyism - and his reputation will be left permanently tarnished as a result.

It all comes down to one basic problem.

Despite several opportunities in the Dail and elsewhere, Kenny has still not provided a full explanation for how and why McNulty was appointed to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art just days before becoming a Fine Gael Seanad by-election candidate.

The Taoiseach keeps repeating that he accepts full blame for this blatant stroke - but when it comes to the actual details, he wants to throw Arts Minister Heather Humphreys and unnamed party officials under the proverbial bus.

To take just a few of the questions that Kenny has ducked, who exactly in Fine Gael HQ orchestrated McNulty's appointment and will they be disciplined?

Was Humphreys bullied into rubber-stamping the decision? Are we really supposed to believe that the Donegal businessman made it to the IMMA board purely on merit and his Seanad candidacy was just a happy coincidence?

When politicians start talking gobbledygook, you can be sure they have something to hide.

ahern

Consider, for example, one of Kenny's so-called apologies in recent days: "I take responsibility for this having evolved to what people might imagine it is."

Frankly, that is reminiscent of Bertie Ahern at his truth-dodging worst. What's more, it's a far cry from Enda's solemn promise on the night of his general election triumph: "Paddy likes to know what the story is."

Right now, Paddy is probably more embarrassed than anything else by this GUBU-esque farce.

Kenny will almost certainly survive for the time being, if only because nobody wants to bring him down over such a Mickey Mouse affair.

McNulty's name is still on the ballot paper, but he has asked Government TDs not to vote for him and that should be enough to get someone else elected.

The political circus will soon move on to two Dail by-elections on October 10 and Budget 2015 four days later.

Unfortunately for Kenny, his self-inflicted wounds may take a lot longer to heal. The McNulty affair leaves his leadership of Fine Gael looking weaker than at any time since Richard Bruton narrowly failed to topple him in 2010.

Some of his old enemies are crawling out and he has found quite a few new ones too.

In other words, McNulty-gate has exposed the Taoiseach's weaknesses on several different fronts. Fine Gael women complain that their boss is only interested in jobs for the boys.

Frustrated backbenchers accuse him of relying on a small group of advisers and rewarding loyalty over talent. Even Cabinet ministers are privately disgusted because Enda's schoolboy errors keep overshadowing positive economic news such as this week's further drop in unemployment.

Kenny can also be sure that from now on, every Government appointment will be scrutinised to within an inch of its life.

gutter

Already this week, junior minister Paudie Coffey's personal driver has had to resign from the board of Irish Water. Hilary Quinlan's defence included the words, "You tell me one party out there who doesn't look after their own. I don't see anything wrong with it...we were all nearly eating out of bins three years ago" - which helps to explain why Irish politics is so often dragged into the gutter.

Labour missed a trick here too. Joan Burton should have expressed moral outrage from the start but instead she hedged her bets and allowed Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein to make all the running.

Enda Kenny has now been shooting himself in the foot for well over a week.

No wonder so many people in Leinster House see him as a lame duck Taoiseach.

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