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Police scandal could yet engulf his coalition government and leaves Enda Kenny to deal with crisis. Photo by: Photocall

Irish leader Enda Kenny engulfed in first major scandal

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Police scandal could yet engulf his coalition government and leaves Enda Kenny to deal with crisis. Photo by: Photocall

Enda Kenny has been both talented and lucky in avoiding scandals during his three years as Irish leader, especially with a voracious Irish media watching every misstep.

Until now.

Ireland is not a country where politicians or public figures fall on their sword and it truly takes something alarming to make it happen.

So the resignation of the top cop in the country, Martin Callinan, was big news indeed.

His resignation ups the stakes on Justice Minister Alan Shatter, who is considered to be very close to his police commissioner, and opposition parties are calling for his head.

Accompanying the resignation was another announcement of yet another scandal, this time the illegal taping of phone calls to and from Irish police stations.

The implications are serious, Kenny reported, and could involve many high profile court cases being re-examined.

It was just the latest twist in what is a complicated vortex of a story that essentially revolves around, in the first instance, cops fixing tickets for important friends across the country in a systematic way.

One of those who got tickets fixed was apparently Martin Callinan.

In most developed countries that would lead to an immediate resignation, but not in Ireland.

Indeed, a journalist who pursued the story doggedly lost her job when she revealed it in the Irish Independent.

Writing in the Guardian yesterday, media writer Roy Greenslade stated:

“Today's resignation of Ireland's police chief, Martin Callinan, is a vindication of the reporting of Gemma O'Doherty, a journalist fired by the Irish Independent for her pursuit of the story that has led to his departure.”

The scandal exploded when two whistleblowers went to the office of the oversight commissioner and spilled the beans on the ticket-fixing. Instead of being thanked, they were obstructed and Callinan called their behavior “disgusting” before a parliamentary inquiry. He resigned rather than withdraw those words. It also turned out someone had bugged the oversight commissioner’s offices.

He had to go, especially after the revelations of the new scandal, and he did.

As Fintan O’Toole wrote in the Irish Times, “On his own account, Martin Callinan felt about the making of allegations by the whistleblowers the way we feel about a noxious smell or a hideous sight or a depraved act. He was instinctively and helplessly repelled.”

For now, Kenny says he will not ask Alan Shatter to resign. However, if this drip drip drip of negative stories continues and scandals spread on his watch then Kenny may be forced to do so.

Kenny has run a transparent government, especially in comparison to what came before.


But his greatest strength is that sense of integrity.

With European and local elections coming up and a minority coalition partner in the Labour Party set for annihilation in those elections unless they can find a way to turn it around, he must know these are perilous times.

Labour could choose an issue like this to break from the government and proclaim their integrity by forcing an election.

This story has a ways to run.

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