Kenny comes face to face with country's bleak future
Published 19/02/2011 | 05:00
THE man who now seems almost certain to be the next Taoiseach came face to face yesterday with the likely future of the Irish workforce.
It was a defining moment of Enda Kenny's election campaign. A stark, warts and all reminder of the kind of poison chalice that awaits the winner of next week's ballot.
The Fine Gael leader had just extolled the economic and job-creation potential of the sustainable-energy sector.
But he was visibly taken aback as, just seconds later, a student told him he only wanted to get his qualification so he could pack his bags and head off to Australia.
Standing in a hi-tech classroom at St John's College in Cork city centre, Mr Kenny had asked one student about his future plans, only to be told that the young man didn't have any -- or at least not in Ireland.
Dave Hickey (28) from Mitchelstown, Co Cork, simply shrugged his shoulders as he acknowledged that he didn't see any future for himself in Ireland, despite being willing to stay here if he could get a decent job.
"There are dozens of people aged between 18 and 30 already gone from my town and there are only about 3,500 or 4,000 people in the town," he told the Fine Gael leader.
"I cannot see where it (hope) is coming from at the moment; it's looking pretty bleak. I don't see jobs out there. I've been to Australia and that's where I think my future is now."
Directly behind the Fine Gael leader, a TV crew for BBC's 'Panorama' programme kept their cameras rolling throughout the exchange.
In one brief conversation, the desperate plight of modern Ireland had been rolled out for all to see.
In the lengthy press conference that followed, British reporters asked only about debt repayments and the EU-IMF bail-out.
Mr Kenny had done a lengthy interview with Channel 4 at a party rally the previous evening -- and the questions there were also all about Ireland's ability to repay the mammoth debts it has accumulated.
It was left to an Irish reporter to ask a question about Queen Elizabeth II's impending visit to Irish shores, the first by a British monarch in 100 years.
Mr Kenny mentioned employment and job creation in virtually every context yesterday, from the war of words with the Labour Party to social welfare reform, from vote transfers to the final week of canvassing.
The party had deliberately chosen a college to launch its NewERA jobs stimulus plan, which promises 100,000 jobs by 2016.
The tragedy, though, is that Dave Hickey and thousands of his generation will not be around to see whether it is a success.