VIDEO: 'He's compassionate and decent' - Jerry Buttimer's defence of Enda Kenny
OUTSPOKEN Fine Gael backbench TD Jerry Buttimer, who faces losing his Cork seat, has launched an impassioned defence of Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
But Mr Buttimer, who is expected to be beaten for a Dail berth by Sinn Fein's Councillor Donnchadh O'Laoghaire, warned that Fine Gael face tough questions" over the scale of losses suffered in General
Election 2016 and how Fianna Fail managed such a resurgence after their 2011 implosion.
"I think Enda Kenny is one of the most compassionate and decent men in Irish politics," he said.
Mr Buttimer said the questions facing Fine Gael extend far beyond the leadership of the party.
"That responsibility lies with all of us in the Fine Gael and Labour parties, particularly in Fine Gael."
"That will be reflected on by those in the parliamentary party but also by those of us who are members of Fine Gael."
"We failed to empathise with the Irish people and we lacked a decency and compassion that was there in many of us – so people said – we got the economy right but people didn’t feel that in their own lives."
"The last five years have been difficult. Decisions were taken that in wildest dream no Government would take but that was done in the interests of the people and ensuring many of our people had an opportunity to get back to work to stay at home."
"What I think we failed to do - the campaign has not been a great campaign. It did not ignite, it didn’t connect with the people.
"We lacked empathy, we lacked that vision – we didn’t tell the people why we did what we did and I think ournarrative was missed by many of our citizens and it’s reflected in the ballot box."
"The people have spoken and you must listen to what they have said. They have voted in a huge way - sending a message to this Government that they didn’t want us. There’s a responsibility on the people who are in the next Dail to reflect upon that."
"If that means Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail must come together - that’s a matter for them."
But Mr Buttimer, a key figure in the marriage equality campaign, warned that the politics of government must now replace the politics of protest.
"The politics of protest cannot govern the country- there’s a responsibility on those elected today to be held to account for their policies and for their actions. You can’t be all things to all people."
"There’s an obligation now on those on the far left and Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail to act responsibly."
Mr Buttimer admitted he was taken aback by the resurgence in Fianna Fail.
"What’s extraordinary for me is that the Irish people have said to Fianna Fail that you have atoned and we forgive you for the ills that you have brought on the people."
"That’s a huge question to be looked at in time by people a lot more intelligent than me as to how that happened."
"The Irish people have spoken and they have sent a message to Fine Gael and Labour in Government that our mandate is over and what that mandate is will be reflected in the final composition of the new Dail when the 158 seats are filled."
He admitted he is "philosophical" about the election result.