Friday 30 September 2016

Kenny goes rogue as he hits campaign stride in battleground election town

Published 25/02/2016 | 02:30

Enda Kenny is confronted by a woman while canvassing in Trim last night. Photo: Mark Condren
Enda Kenny is confronted by a woman while canvassing in Trim last night. Photo: Mark Condren

"I've got your nose," Enda Kenny teases a child in a Trim butcher's shop when an angry woman bursts in.

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"What about the 250,000 young people who had to emigrate?" she yells.

"We're going to bring back 70,000 of them," Mr Kenny replies.

"I have one daughter, Enda...and she's five years gone," Cynthia Simonet says.

"We're going to bring her home," Mr Kenny replies.

Ms Simonet, whose daughter is in Australia, is not placated.

Mr Kenny moves on up the street as another woman is shouting: "1,600 children in emergency accommodation, what has Fine Gael done?"

In Trim, as elsewhere on the election trail, protesters have been few, but vocal.

The town has a sign boasting that Mel Gibson's 'Braveheart' was filmed at its castle, but it's Fine Gael's candidate Ray Butler who has the medieval battle to hang on to his seat in Meath West. A strong Fianna Fáil candidate, Shane Cassells, is wielding what looks like a very impressive electoral axe.

Speaking of Fianna Fáil, there's former minister Noel Dempsey's brother Loman in a café. The Taoiseach goes in for a handshake. It was a "no comment" when the Irish Independent asks if he'll vote for Butler or FG running mate Damien English.

Martin Stone stops Mr Kenny on the street. His son Conor, a promising golfer, has scoliosis and has been waiting more than two years for a hospital appointment. Mr Stone blames cutbacks.

"He keeps getting told that it will be in the next six months," Mr Stone says. The Taoiseach has one of his aides take Mr Stone's details for a follow-up.

Turlough O'Brien wants to show the Taoiseach his revamped Spar shop where he has employed five more people in recent days.

"Reverse engines and go back," Mr Kenny declares and everyone is marched back up to the shop at the other end of the street.

"Why is that? Because he's a businessman and he's creating employment," Mr Kenny says.

The shop owner gives him a 'wish jar' as a gift.

Mr Kenny takes it and wishes: "We want a stable government and a majority for Fine Gael and Labour."

Time is running short and Mr Kenny's handlers are worried he has a radio interview back in Dublin. "Taoiseach we have to go," one says. But Mr Kenny's gone rogue. "We never have to go when we're meeting people like this," says Mr Kenny, who had hit his campaign stride and spent almost an hour pounding the pavements of Trim.

Mr Butler begs them to visits the Bounty Bar at the other end of the town.

"He [Butler] told me that under no circumstances should we pass the Bounty Bar. I said if we do, there'll be a mutiny," Mr Kenny tells owner, Billy Wilson. He sits down with him in front of an open fire. "Can you see a bit of a resurgence coming back in Trim?" Mr Kenny asks. "There is yeah, definitely," is the answer. "God bless you, Billy," the Taoiseach says, and he's off again. One more day.

Irish Independent

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