'Chicken' Enda stays away from protests at big match
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny was accused last night of "chickening out" of attending his first Connacht football final as leader of the Government because of local hospital protests.
Mr Kenny will be in the Gaeltacht with his family, rather than watching his beloved Mayo take on Roscommon tomorrow. The match is being played in Dr Hyde Park in Roscommon -- the town that has just lost its hospital A&E unit.
The match comes 75 years after his father, Henry Kenny, played a key role in his home county's All-Ireland victory. But the Taoiseach would have to face protesters against the closure of the A&E unit if he went to the game.
A survey yesterday showed three out of four people believed he misled Roscommon people with his pre-election promises.
Mr Kenny said he would be spending the weekend in the Gaeltacht with his family.
"I haven't seen some of them for three weeks. They are in the Gaeltacht. I have a commitment -- family first and sport second," he said.
The Taoiseach's spokesman pointed out that there was never a commitment to go to the game and it was merely assumed Mr Kenny would attend.
"He is prioritising his children."
Mr Kenny is a big Gaelic football fan and a regular at Mayo matches. His spokesman said he did not know when he last missed a Connacht final featuring Mayo.
The protests were "unrelated completely" to the Taoiseach's decision not to attend the match, he claimed.
However, Roscommon Hospital Action Committee said that its planned protest would be entirely peaceful.
Chairman John McDermott said he was disappointed by Mr Kenny's decision not to attend the upcoming match.
"I am disappointed if he doesn't come because I'd like to see his face when Roscommon beat them," he said.
"He chickened out. There are no two ways about it. We have stated all week it would be very, very peaceful and visual."
Junior Minister Michael Ring supported Mr Kenny's decision.
"Sport and politics shouldn't be mixed. The people of Roscommon have every right to protest, but I believe that a football occasion should be left as a football occasion,'' he said.
"We have enough sadness and we need a bit of joy; and that comes from sport.
"Enda Kenny has made his decision and that's fine because his family comes first, and I don't think anyone can argue with that," he said on Newstalk.