Some in FG say Kenny ‘took bullet’ over McCabe row – new book
‘Enda the Road’ by Gavan Reilly recounts 2017 Garda whistleblower scandal
Former taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/File
A new book on the dramatic last days of Enda Kenny’s tenure as taoiseach has disclosed some of his colleagues remain convinced he may have “taken a bullet” when accepting an account he gave on radio of a meeting was not correct.
“Enda the Road”, by Virgin Media News political correspondent Gavan Reilly, recounts the scandal in February 2017 over government knowledge of Tusla’s false accusations against Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe’s that ultimately led to Mr Kenny stepping down as taoiseach.
Mr Kenny’s political authority was particularly damaged by a radio interview he gave in which he recalled having a conversation with Minister for Children Katherine Zappone before she met Mr McCabe and his wife in her department. He recalled purporting to give her advice on how to deal with the meeting.
However, his version was contradicted by Ms Zappone who recalled no such conversation. The bombshell – and the implication that he had essentially recalled a conversation that did not exist – created a substantial crisis for the government, undermined Mr Kenny’s status within his own party, and forced him to issue a “mea culpa” at a fraught parliamentary party meeting, and in the Dáil several days later.
However, Mr Reilly spoke to Fine Gael sources who insisted that Mr Kenny “had secretly sacrificed himself for the benefit of others”.
Mr Reilly quotes former colleagues who “still cling to the belief that Kenny’s account on radio – anecdotes and all – was, in fact, totally correct. Their theory is that when theatrically addressing reporters on the plinth, it was Zappone whose memory was at fault.”
It is pointed out there is no hard evidence to back that theory and that Mr Kenny had fully accepted Ms Zappone’s recollection.
The book discloses in some detail the events and decisions that led to the crisis. It reveals that the Department of Children released a statement on behalf of Ms Zappone about her meeting with the McCabes even though it could not get hold of her (she was on a trip to her birthplace in Washington state).
The statement was issued and was done against the wishes of senior officials in the taoiseach’s department. The statement’s impact was substantial as it suggested both Mr Kenny and then tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald were aware about the Tusla files. Ms Zappone later apologised to an irate Ms Fitzgerald about the statement’s inference she might have known about the Tusla files on Mr McCabe.
When Ms Zappone arrived home from the US, Mr Kenny’s closest advisers wanted him to cancel a trip to Cork to meet her. He refused to do so. Ms Zappone also turned down a request for a meeting with Ms Fitzgerald before she went on the plinth of Leinster House to answer reporters’ questions about the matter.
It was then the Ms Zappone contradicted Mr Kenny’s account of their conversation before the meeting with Mr McCabe.