Wednesday 26 July 2017

Four decades on ... Fine Gael gather to fete a big by-election win by Enda

24-year-old Enda Kenny is welcomed to the Dáil for the first time in November 1975 after winning his late father's seat
24-year-old Enda Kenny is welcomed to the Dáil for the first time in November 1975 after winning his late father's seat
John Downing

John Downing

The organisers have insisted that Enda Kenny wants the celebrations to be "low-key."

Some of the guests thought the local party officials were taking the Taoiseach literally when they learned that Richard Bruton and Damien English were representing the Government. But tonight's 40th anniversary celebrations of Enda Kenny's first election to the Dáil was a sell-out ages ago.

And up to teatime last night there was still a waiting list of would-be revellers hoping to join the 400-strong throng in Breaffy House, Castlebar, via a late cancellation.

Organised by the Catlebar Fine Gael executive, it will be predominantly for family, friends and local party activists who worked for the party down the years who will gather for an evening of nostalgia.

There is expected to be a good attendance by members of the Seanad, while county councillors from various parts of the country will be there in numbers. Finola Bruton will represent her husband, the former Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader, John Bruton.

Pride of place will be a special message from former Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, now aged 95. He was Taoiseach heading a Fine Gael-Labour Coalition with a wafer-thin majority when Enda Kenny contested his late father, Henry's seat in November 1975.

Ever since Mr Cosgrave has had special affection for "young Kenny," whose by-election win saved him from an imminent general election. The former Fine Gael leader will be warm in his congratulations.

"He also deserves grateful thanks for his calm leadership as Taoiseach, which has brought economic and social progress which we all appreciate," Mr Cosgrave has written in his message to the gathering. It will be a nostalgic evening for many of the Mayo party members attending. Some of them have vivid memories of an epic battle 40 years ago which drew a Who's Who of national political characters to canvass the highways and byways of Mayo.

The Fianna Fáil campaign was led by Gerry Collins of Limerick West and it featured some fiery displays by Jackie Healy-Rae of Kerry. All Fine Gael and Labour government team canvassed together. Tonight, the man who lost to Enda Kenny 40 years ago, Fianna Fáil's Michael-Joe McGreal, will be among those praising his old rival - but only up to a point.

"I have always had a high regard for all the Kennys personally and I even voted for Enda the last time in hopes he'd be Taoiseach," Mr McGreal, a long time county councillor told the Irish Independent.

"We hoped he would be a game-changer for Mayo as Taoiseach. But he has been a big disappointment to everybody in that regard," the long-time Fianna Fáil man insisted.

Irish Independent

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