Thursday 23 February 2017

Kenny urges candidates to keep eyes on Dáil goal

Taoiseach preaches to the converted - but meetings with public have been kept brief so far

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with former Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Mary Mitchell O’Connor during a visit to the Dublin Rathdown constituency yesterday. Photo: Mark Condren
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with former Justice Minister Alan Shatter and Mary Mitchell O’Connor during a visit to the Dublin Rathdown constituency yesterday. Photo: Mark Condren
Taoiseach Enda Kenny takes a penalty kick against Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe while visiting Mount Carmel Secondary School on King’s Inn Street, Dublin, yesterday. Photos: Mark Condren
Taoiseach Enda Kenny plays football while visiting Mount Carmel Secondary School on King's Inn Street, Dublin Photo: Mark Condren
Taoiseach Enda Kenny plays football while visiting Mount Carmel Secondary School on King's Inn Street, Dublin
Taoiseach Enda Kenny plays football while visiting Mount Carmel Secondary School on King's Inn Street, Dublin Photo: Mark Condren

Taoiseach Enda Kenny arrived at Airfield House, Dundrum, and began his speech to the Fine Gael faithful joking about how "Google Maps had a problem with this place a few years ago".

Actually it was Apple's maps software that wrongly labelled the farm as an airport. But no matter - everyone at the visitor attraction in the heart of former justice minister Alan Shatter's constituency knew what he meant.

And there was no mention of a more recent problem - somewhat frosty relations between the pair.

Last week, Mr Shatter spoke of how Mr Kenny helped bring about the end of his ministerial career in 2014 after the findings of the Guerin Report into garda malpractice.

"He [Mr Kenny] encouraged me to resign in the circumstances as they arose. That is the simple reality and fact," Mr Shatter said.

Asked about the matter later, Mr Kenny said he wouldn't comment on "conversations I had with any minister" while praising Mr Shatter's "prodigious output in terms of work and a voracious appetite" to deal with the challenges of his former brief.

Things could have been awkward in Dundrum - but there was no mention of the issue yesterday and everything appeared cordial.

They were joined by Mr Shatter's running mate, Josepha Madigan, as well as Mary Mitchell O'Connor and Councillor Maria Bailey from over the border in Dún Laoghaire.

The latter two face a tough job to get elected in a three-seater where Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett automatically keeps his seat.

And Mr Kenny was generous in his support for all of them, giving a barnstorming speech to the Fine Gael activists he wants out in all kinds of weather to bat for his local team.

"This is your fight, this is your challenge and there is no point in saying on the 27th of February, the day was wet, the weather was bad, I wouldn't go and knock on the door," he thundered.

"Your challenge in Dún Laoghaire and in Dublin Rathdown is to knock on those doors, is to speak to those people, is to explain to them the importance of this vote on the 26th of February. Do not let the opportunity go. Do not let it pass, not to elect Shatter, Madigan, Bailey and Mitchell O'Connor - four brilliant candidates that stand for this party."

Mr Kenny - often said to struggle with debating and media questions - is very good at these kinds of events. But why wouldn't he be? He's preaching to the converted.

His appearances out on the street with the public, in places such as Mullingar last week and Dublin's CHQ shopping centre yesterday, have so far been brief, with Mr Kenny accompanied by several party supporters and minders.

It's a shame because it's where he appears to be in his element.

Bursting into Louis Copeland's tailors in the Docklands shopping centre he asks "anything on special today?" with a store worker joking "it depends who's asking".

He encounters Brian Clancy in a healthfood store who tells him he has brought his family back home from Chile because the economy is recovering.

The Taoiseach can't believe his luck and tells reporters to get their microphones out.

Later he sits down beside Dublin sisters Yvonne and Deirdre White for a chat while they eat lunch in the centre and leaves them with a "keep the recovery going".

The next event is at Mount Carmel Secondary school in Dublin's north inner city.

Alanis Duncan (16) had a question for him.

"Dublin beat Mayo in McHale Park on Saturday. Who do you think will win the All-Ireland?"

"It is a problem isn't it?," Mr Kenny replied.

"I think the Dubs are going to be very hard to beat this year again... We'll be there or there abouts.

"The only time we can meet Dublin again in the championship is in the All-Ireland final. If that happens revenge will be on our minds," he added darkly.

They like sport in this school - there's an astro-turf pitch on the roof.

Mr Kenny lined up for a penalty - which was saved by the leg of local minister Paschal Donohoe - only for one of the girls to knock it in.

Back in class Mr Kenny was doing his best to inspire the students. "I said to the president of the United States a few years ago - would you send a message to the children.

"He took his pen, with his left hand, and he wrote three words 'Dream, Big Dreams'," he told them.

Asked by another student if he'd like to be president here, Mr Kenny responded with a quick "no".

"Our Uachtaráin does a wonderful job in his carrying out of his duties, but it's not one for me," he added.

"Do you have Fiscal Space for college for inner city students?" another pupil asks.

"I won't give a lecture on Fiscal Space," Mr Kenny quips before explaining the various grant schemes in place.

The teenagers appeared to be receptive to his message.

But will it help him? Out of the 40-odd students he addressed at the school, just one was old enough to vote.

Irish Independent

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