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Saturday 19 August 2017

Kenny ignores own pledge to avoid constituency work

Environment Minister Phil Hogan on a see-saw at the Fr McGrath Centre in Kilkenny earlier this month
Environment Minister Phil Hogan on a see-saw at the Fr McGrath Centre in Kilkenny earlier this month

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

ONE of Taoiseach Enda Kenny's pre-election promises has already come back to haunt him.

Two days before the February 25 election, Mr Kenny pledged that ministers in his Government would stay away from constituency work during their first 100 days in power.

But after 70 days that order is being roundly ignored, with Fine Gael ministers -- and Mr Kenny himself -- doing constituency work that the Taoiseach dismissed as a "circus" in his campaign rhetoric.

He promised voters his ministers would "hit the ground running" and would concentrate exclusively on their portfolios.

"Ministers will concentrate completely, to the exclusion of other works, on the national responsibilities of their portfolios," Mr Kenny said at the time. "Their constituencies, I'm quite sure, will be happy to accommodate them."

But, in an embarrassing climbdown on that pledge, the Government now says the "primary", rather than exclusive, focus is on national issues.

In the last few days, Mr Kenny turned the sod at Mayo Abbey National School in Claremorris, visited another school in Belmullet and launched the website of a school in Louisburgh. Since assuming office on March 9, he has also:



  • Officially opened a new development in Ballintubber GAA club.
  • Launched a Mayo food trail.
  • Raised a green flag at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in his native Castlebar.
  • Sounded the starting horn at the West of Ireland Women's Mini-Marathon, also in Castlebar.
  • Opened the Mayo ploughing championship.


But, despite the fact that Fine Gael and Mr Kenny made a big play in the days before the election of focusing "entirely on their portfolios in the first 100 days and completely avoid(ing) constituency work", other ministers are also busy in their backyards. Phil Hogan, Environment Minister and chief lieutenant to Mr Kenny, has been at numerous events in his Carlow-Kilkenny constituency.

At the start of this month, Mr Hogan highlighted the fact he had reversed a decision by the Fianna Fail-Green coalition to abolish a €140,000 grant for a family resource centre, the Fr McGrath Centre, in Kilkenny city.

Agenda

Mr Hogan made his announcement on a visit to the centre.

He also cut the ribbon at the opening of a marriage counselling office in Kilkenny, and launched Intel's global schools initiative, also in Kilkenny.

Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Minister Jimmy Deenihan has attended some launches in Kerry South that fall within his remit, such as opening a county fair -- which included donkey derbies and terrier racing.

However, others such as Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, Health Minister James Reilly and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton have largely stayed away from local issues since assuming office.

A government spokesman said: "The primary focus of the Government in the first 60-plus days has been on the national agenda which has delivered in a number of key areas such as the jobs initiative and the restructuring of the banks, as well as each minister looking at every subhead of spending in their departments to ensure there is value for money."

Irish Independent

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