Monday 24 July 2017

Kenny's tour of America is a chance to set the tone for his exit

Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Steve Humphreys
Taoiseach Enda Kenny Photo: Steve Humphreys
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Enda Kenny's impatience with the British government surfaced in Brussels after a meeting with Theresa May left him none the wiser about her Brexit plans.

Mr Kenny wanted a nod and wink as to when Mrs May will trigger Article 50 and finally get the formal divorce proceedings under way.

Timing is everything now for the Taoiseach because events of recent weeks saw Fine Gael TDs lose their patience with him.

And yet there is an acceptance that he will lead Ireland into the initial Brexit talks - so the date really matters to him.

"We didn't cause this. We have to put up with the consequences of it," he said yesterday while calling for Britain to make their position clearer.

It was a glimpse of a 'tough talking' Enda that we're likely to see again in the coming week as he tries to shake the tag of 'lame duck' Taoiseach.

Mr Kenny takes off on his farewell tour of the United States today.

Five cities in seven days. If nothing else the itinerary shows the Taoiseach still has the stamina for the job.

Mr Kenny came perilously close to falling on the back of the Garda whistleblower revelations a few weeks ago but managed to buy himself time. That was important.

Had he resigned on the back of a fictional conversation with Katherine Zappone the history books would suggest he was carried out in disgrace.

But by signalling his intention to step down after St Patrick's Day he can walk out with his head held high.

Fine Gael will lavish him with praise, happy in the knowledge they didn't have to push him, and there will be tributes from all sides of Leinster House.

So it will be interesting to watch the Taoiseach's language as he travels across America this week.

Officially his two aims are to highlight Ireland's priorities in the context of Brexit and to make the case of immigration reform.

But with endless speeches to be made Mr Kenny has the opportunity to set the tone for his exit.

Right now there are two ways of reviewing the Kenny era. There's one where a Fine Gael-led Government tried to introduce water charges and now seem set to create a precedent where lawbreakers are not pursued.

And then there is the version where he helped resuscitate a deadbeat Fine Gael party in 2002 and led the country out of recession.

Over the coming days you can expect Mr Kenny to talk a lot about the second image. He will no doubt use opportunities like 'Ireland Day' at Bloomberg Headquarters to talk about the economic recovery.

And then there will be his meeting with Donald Trump, which presents another opportunity to play the tough guy. Whether he embraces the chance to stand up to the bully and risk becoming a victim of Mr Trump's Twitter account remains to be seen.

It might sound like a strange statement but Mr Kenny is most at home being Taoiseach when he's not actually at home.

While we often shudder at his 'dad jokes' and air guitar at home, overseas the Taoiseach works the room in a way that makes everybody comfortable.

The week ahead is diplomatically difficult, but it's also an opportunity to go out on high.

Irish Independent

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