Saturday 21 January 2017

Kenny remembers dark days as he looks to future

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Published 26/02/2011 | 05:00

Enda Kenny vividly remembers being told he was going to lose his seat during Fine Gael 2002 meltdown.

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Mr Kenny came within 87 votes of being eliminated during the count in Mayo on May 18, 2002 -- Fine Gael's darkest day.

In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Kenny told how he was informed that his seat was gone.

"What lingers in my head is one of my longest standing supporters came out to the house to me crying about eight o'clock in the evening and he said: 'It's gone'.

"And I had expected that all day. And about one o'clock in the morning, I got another phone call to say: 'You can actually win this'. There were transfers from Frank Chambers at the time," he said.

Mr Kenny said when he went to the count centre in the Travellers Friend in Castlebar early that morning, people began to return in a state of "disturbed emotion" and he clung on.

"The course of my career could have been so very different if I'd fallen like a lot of others. I'll never forget that really. And it wasn't just for myself, to be honest with you. It was seeing so many falling like nine pins across the country. It was a terrible time for Fine Gael."

Obituary

Nine years later and Mr Kenny is on the brink of leading Fine Gael to its greatest ever general election victory.

From barely holding two seats in 2002 in Mayo, the party is threatening to win four seats today with Michelle Mulherin potentially joining, Mr Kenny, Michael Ring and John O'Mahony.

"It really depends on the north of the county how well they respond to the opportunity to make history," he says.

And there is even praise for 'The Ringer', Mr Kenny's long-time constituency colleague and rival, Michael Ring who he said was playing his part -- contrary to suggestions he had a habit of going it alone.

"There might be an odd breach later on in the evening, but by and large he has played his part fully," he said.

After his experience of bringing his own party back from the brink, Mr Kenny says Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin will have a network of people across the country -- so he's not writing off his rival's chances of bouncing back.

"It is a relentless drive. I never write anybody's obituary. Time goes on and it moves of its own accord," he said.

Irish Independent

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