Lise Hand: Enda serves up recipe for success
'Starve yourself' to get votes, leader tells canvassers
Published 25/02/2011 | 05:00
SO that's it now. It's all over bar the voting. The 43 constituencies have been descended upon by some -- or all -- of the party leaders and no hand remains unshaken, no baby unkissed, no supermarket left uncanvassed by one sprinting politician or other.
Yesterday was Day 24 of what has been a reasonably short election campaign, but which has felt much longer -- in reality, this general election has been under way since November, when the Green Party announced they would walk the plank in early 2011.
By now, the various soundbites and slogans and accusations and counter-accusations have a very familiar ring -- and none more so than Enda's Five Point Plan. The Fine Gael leader has proved incapable of standing before a cluster of microphones or atop a soapbox or in front of a couple of startled citizens and pronouncing those three little words: Five Point Plan.
And so there was no reason to doubt that they wouldn't be rolled out yet again yesterday as Enda Kenny made his final trawl for votes through Donegal and Sligo before he took the road home to Castlebar.
And he had the perfect opportunity to do so when he held his final press conference yesterday morning before the broadcasting moratorium kicked in at 2pm and blessed silence fell upon a grateful nation.
He had stopped off at An Grianan Hotel in the constituency of Donegal North East where Fine Gael are running two candidates, Joe McHugh and John Ryan, to rally the foot-soldiers to one final last push. "Your job is not to slacken off. Don't have any breakfast, don't have any dinner, don't have any tea. Starve yourself in the interest in getting votes out for these people," he urged, to the amusement of the crowd.
Then he and the candidates strolled over to a quiet and sunny part of the grounds where Enda made his final pitch for the Big Gig. But instead of a re-run of the Five Point Plan, he spoke with some eloquence of the scale of the task which faces the next government.
"Today, yes, we have to tell the truth. We are living in many cases with a national heartbreak, reeling from the national confidence trick pulled on us by the government and those to whom they ceded power, the developers and the banks," he said.
"Every week, as we know and from this historic county of Donegal included, a thousand mothers and fathers watched their children pack up their lives, put their degrees in beside their dollars and their bitter disappointment as they head for Sydney or Brisbane or Vancouver or the United States. Today, another generation of Irish is building the future of another country." But this speech was something more than a reiteration of our sorrows.
Enda also urged the electorate to use their vote as a tool for change.
"Tomorrow, as they pick up their pencils and mark their ballot paper, I want to ask the people of Ireland to turn their anger into action and vote with their power, vote with their pride," he said. "Because if this election is to take the political pulse of our nation, I want every beat and every vote to show a nation that looks with hope and generosity and courage to the future -- not with regret or hurt and bitterness of the past. Just as grudges paralyse us in our own lives, root us in the pain of the past, they will do the same to us as a nation".
This was an unexpected speech, a bit of a curveball in a campaign which has followed largely predictable lines. It was graceful and heartfelt and delivered with quiet determination in a tranquil corner of Donegal. It was a statement of where we are, and he talked of "the politics of pollution and corruption of public life".
He added: "That's not to say we can forget the past and that we should forget the past -- we don't, we can't, nor should we. In fact, with our plan to get our country working, we're saying 'never again'; never again can such a travesty be allowed to happen."
IT hasn't been a campaign which has been distinguished by any heartening oratory; instead the soundtrack to the General Election 2011 has been the usual uninspiring cacophony of sniping and argument and shape-throwing and spoofing and bluff.
But this was something just a little bit different. Towards the end, he stated: "We have to close that gap between government and the people, between politics and the people. Because it was in that gap that the rot started and the rot flourished. Tomorrow, then, the people are in charge. Governments may govern, but it is the people who rule."Chances are that this unheralded speech will be lost in the clamour of the counting of the votes and the formation of the next government.
But Enda's Donegal Declaration was an elegant coda to what's been a prosaic political contest. There's not a bruised and heartsick Irish voter left who believes in a Brave New Dawn anymore. Not after all this country's been through and what still lies ahead. But just for a moment on a chilly hillside, the glow of those words warmed us.