Saturday 25 February 2017

Gaffes and missteps a plenty as a host of veteran TDs trip up this General Election

David Kearns

Enda Kenny made a number of gaffes ahead of polling day
Enda Kenny made a number of gaffes ahead of polling day

Mayo has trouble winning All Ireland's - unless it comes to whingers, a moment of honest that is sure to haunt Enda Kenny as he awaits the results of the general election.

If anything has marked this lacklustre general election campaign, it has been the unusual number of gaffes by veteran political figures that should, by now, known better than to speak their minds.

In what is likely the worst gaffe of recent years, Mayo-native Enda Kenny described his county’s residents as "All-Ireland whingers" after some questioned Fine Gael’s assessment that the country was on the road to recovery.

Read More: Taoiseach: 'Mayo's whingers don't see any good'

"God knows, we have some All-Ireland champions here in Castlebar. I don't mean Castlebar Mitchells (GAA club), I mean the whingers that I hear every week saying there's nothing happening,” he said.

Despite initially standing by the comment, Mr Kenny later backpedalled on the claim – saying he was referring to a local click of Fianna Fáil politicians “who wouldn't know sunshine if they saw it.”

Read More: Taoiseach says Castlebar 'whingers' remark was referring to Fianna Fáil members in his hometown

Mr Kenny would later again score an own goal when during the a leaders debate appeared to confirm he was directly responsible for the 2014 appointment of by-election candidate John McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) in a bid to boost Mr McNulty's credentials ahead of his bid for a Seanad seat.

"What I did was make an appointment that did not need to be made," Mr Kenny said on the debate as Miriam O'Callaghan was grilling each leader about 'cronyism'.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Kenny said it was Arts Minister Heather Humphreys who had made the appointment.

The Irish Independent asked which gaffe he would erase from voters' memories if he could, Mr Kenny replied:

"Actually, you deal with all these things. I'm human, the same as everybody else. I make mistakes but I'm man enough to acknowledge and accept responsibility for all these things. I think the hallmark of leadership is how you move on from issues that arise."

Read More: 'I'm human,' says Enda Kenny after gaffe on John McNulty appointment

If this election campaign has taught the Irish people anything, it is that Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams is right when he says politicians do not need to be good at maths.

The Louth TD constantly failed to explain his party’s tax policies clearly, and, at times, even appeared to confuse even himself.

Read More: Adams's gaffes on tax policy

Asked on RTÉ radio if Sinn Féin’s policy was for a worker to pay 59c on the margin above earnings of €100,000, he said: “No, no. He’s going to be paying on every euro earned over €100,000… 7c in a euro”

Queried if his figures could be wrong, he replied: “That is the case Sean… [but] let’s agree to differ.”

Read More: 'Let's take one election at a time, sweet Jesus' - Tempers flare as Gerry Adams is asked about running after next Dáil

Later in the campaign, Adams appeared to lose his cool during a heated interview when asked if the upcoming general election would be his last.

Muttering “sweet Jesus” when quizzed if he would run again after the next Dáil, Deputy Adams said he was taking “one election at a time.”

Deputy party leader Mary Lou McDonald would later step in and defend Adams, saying "anybody can fumble a figure" and that it would be "slightly odd if any leader was going on and getting plain sailing".

The Dublin Central TD had troubles of her own when she got on the wrong side of a bystander while out campaigning in Dublin.

Read More: Watch: Mary Lou McDonald confronted by 'incensed' man on Dublin's Grafton St

Confronted by a member of the public who was "incensed" at her party's policies, McDonald was unable to answer whether her “party leader could do maths?”

Brushing off the comment, she engaged with the ‘apolitical’ man, who later turned out to be Fergus Crawford, the CEO of the Irish branch of Swiss investment firm.

Read More: Angry teen tells Tánaiste Joan Burton to shove water bill 'up her fiscal space'

One day on Labour leader Joan Burton got the same treatment while canvassing in Kilkenny.

Stopping to take a selfie with a young teen, Ms Burton was given an earful when the topic of water-charges came up.

The teenager angrily told the Labour leader to shove her water bills “up her fiscal space.”

Shouting: “Yeah, run from your problems like you always do...”as Ms Burton walked away.

Perhaps more damaging gaffe was Labour’s Alan Kelly’s “power is a drug… it suits me” misstep while speaking candidly in an interview with the Sunday Independent.

Kelly has be lambasted for the comment throughout February and was even accused of taking focus away from his party’s re-election campaign, with many in the media using it as a jumping point to focus in more on the Tipperary TD. 

Labour leader Joan Burton weighed in on the topic, saying "(Alan Kelly) is an incredibly obedient employee.”

Read More: 'Alan Kelly wanted to be treated like royalty'

Some good news for Kelly came in the form of Independent TD and constituency rival Mattie McGrath backtracking on his claims the Environment Minister hid in his van in order to escape angry anti-water charge protesters in Tipperary.

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