Kenny confident he'll lead next Government
Credit for Ireland's recovery 'belongs to the people alone'
Enda Kenny has told supporters that he is confident he will lead the next Government to finish the job he has started.
Speaking at an event in Mayo to mark his 40 years in the Dáil, Mr Kenny expressed his gratitude and thanks to all those who had supported him and the party throughout the decades.
He said the next period was "one of great challenge for Ireland".
"There can only be one result of the next election, only one result that I want to see and that is that Fine Gael is returned to Government to finish the job that we started," he said.
"You're going to be called on in the spring and your choice is going to be very important. We want you to win this, I want you to win it, I want to win it.
"I want to lead the next Government and finish the job that we started. I believe we can and will do that. And I see people all over the country can see the beginnings of a strong recovery in our economy. Our challenge is to convince them that we can build on that in the time ahead."
On steering the country out of the recession, Mr Kenny said it had been "a privilege and a great honour to navigate a ship of State out of desperately dangerous waters".
He spoke of the sacrifices made by the people, saying: "It is to them and them alone that the credit goes.
"It is the fallacy of fools for those in politics to look for credit, to think that they should be deserving of the people's gratitude. Because the people give us the trust and the responsibility of getting on with the job and as those in Government know, the mandate given to us was to fix our public finances and put our country back to work.
"The longer you are in this business, the more you understand about human nature and what it is you are given by the people in terms of responsibility."
Mr Kenny recalled his first foray into politics, canvassing in the 1975 by-election caused by the death of his father, Henry.
"I was jammed between Cosgrave on the one hand, who was Taoiseach, and Corish on the other, who was Tánaiste. Little did I realise I would face the same challenge myself many years later.
"And before I said my few immortalised words that were going to change the nation, Cosgrave leaned over to me and Liam said, 'Don't tell them too much, they know enough already.'"
Mr Kenny also referred to the election of 1977, where Fianna Fáil clinched victory after offering the public a string of financial and economic sweeteners to "buy the election".
He warned: "It's still a dangerous concept in 2015 and beyond."
He also spoke about Fine Gael failing to capitalise on its own successes.
Of the Bruton Government of 1994-1997, Mr Kenny said: "We were lean, competitive, export-orientated and powering ahead and that all went... for various political reasons."
Mr Kenny said that while he acknowledged his responsibilities to his Mayo home, he intended to see that the benefits of political decisions were spread throughout the country, giving people all over Ireland the opportunity to benefit and allowing the thousands who have emigrated the opportunity to come home.
The Taoiseach and his wife Fionnuala were joined by 400 guests at the Breaffy House hotel in Castlebar to mark the occasion. Among them were ministers Richard Bruton and Michael Ring, along with TDs John O'Mahony, Michelle Mulherin, Damien English, Frank Feighan and Joe O'Reilly.
A message from former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave offered "grateful thanks" for Mr Kenny's "calm leadership".
His brother, Henry Kenny, recalled how, after their father's death, both he and his brother, then just 25 years old, were brought to Dublin to meet Cosgrave.
"(Enda) was the youngest and I suppose I basically got the rugby ball and passed it. It was suggested that I go because I had the same name.
"I don't think I'd have been as successful and I don't think it was for me. People would say to me yet, 'why didn't you go?' I hadn't an interest really. I've never had a regret."
Attending the event, Richard Bruton said he accepted that Fine Gael had "a struggle on our hands" in the upcoming election.
However, he added: "I think when it comes and people weigh up all the different alternatives, people will see the merit of what Enda has done over the last number of years."
The Taoiseach also took the opportunity to address his hectic schedule. In the course of two days, he travelled from England to Castlebar, on to Enniskillen and London. This will be followed by a meeting with David Cameron at Downing Street today for bilateral talks on Northern Ireland, with a possible return to Belfast to complete the talks before returning to the Dáil on Tuesday.
"This goes on 20 hours a day and despite all the stuff that goes on, despite all the cynicism, despite all the things that are said and done, it's a privilege to serve the people.
"A privilege, genuinely, because when you look back on it, they might not have been great days on some occasions but they were better than for a lot of other people who are suffering. And we have an opportunity to change that and change it we will if we get a chance."
Speaking in Enniskillen, where he was attending the annual Remembrance Day commemorations yesterday, Mr Kenny said he hoped a Stormont deal could be reached within days to resolve the political crisis.
Talks began in September, aimed at tackling the rows over welfare reform and paramilitarism.