Thursday 29 June 2017

The five highs (and five lows) of Enda Kenny's career

Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has faced down critics to ensure he will cling to power until Easter. But it seems the end is nigh.

Here are the five highs (and the five lows) of Taoiseach Enda Kenny's career. 

The Five Highs

1. Queen Elizabeth visits (May 2011)

Of all the events that took place during Mr Kenny’s time as Taoiseach the first visit by a British monarch to the Republic was the most hyped and the most politically sensitive. It was viewed as a massive success and a landmark moment in Anglo-Irish relations.

2. Gay marriage referendum (May 2015)

In 2012 Enda Kenny fell over a flower pot which trying to run away from reporters asking him whether he supported gay marriage – but he then went on a “personal journey” that ended in Panti Bar. Mr Kenny’s change of attitude on the issue was symbolic on the way to Ireland becoming the first country to endorse same-sex marriage by popular vote.

3. Election 2011

After nearly 14 years on the Opposition benches Mr Kenny led Fine Gael to an historic election victory with over 800,000 first preference votes. It marked an 8.8pc swing that made Enda Kenny ‘The Unlikely Taoiseach’. He formed a government with the Labour Party.

4. World travel

Enda Kenny has always looked at his most comfortable when outside of Ireland. He has formed solid relationship with European leaders like Angela Merkel and has made the most of his many trips to the United States. Last year he even travelled to Washington for 24 hours to plant a tree.

5. Dáil speech on Cloyne (July 2011)

His unprecedented Dáil attack on the Catholic Church in the wake of the Cloyne report made global headlines and will probably go down as his most famous.

In a direct challenge to the Vatican, Mr Kenny denounced what he called "the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism - and the narcissism - that dominate the culture of the Vatican to this day."

... and the Five Lows

1. 2001 Leadership battle

The leadership battle Mr Kenny fought with Michael Noonan in 2001 was divisive and bitter. Losing the contest was bad but when Mr Noonan didn't offer him a frontbench position afterwards it led many to speculate that the Mayo TD might leave politics altogether.

2. The Heave (June 2010)

It was pitched as the cappuccino generation versus the men who eat their dinner in the middle of the day. While Mr Kenny was victorious over Richard Bruton  it still ranks as a low point because the events of recent days should the wounds within Fine Gael from the divisive vote are have never fully healed.

3. Vincent Browne’s appalling attack

Vincent Browne and the Taoiseach have had a long-standing feud, stretching back as far as 1982 when the broadcaster said on ‘The Late Late Show’ that Mr Kenny “purported” to be a TD.

In 2010 Mr Browne was forced to issue a public apology after joking about whether Fine Gael had told the party leader to go into a darkroom with a gun and a bottle of whiskey.

4. Political controversies and failures

Mr Kenny will hope that his legacy focuses on the economic recovery but there will also be blotches that cannot be forgotten. Two notably ones would the tragic case of Savita Halappanavar which shook the Government to its core.

Mr Kenny’s government will also be remembered for the failed attempt to introduce water charges.

5. Garda whistleblowers

The Taoiseach has twice been burned by this issue.

In 2014 he just about survived after a justice minister, garda commissioner and secretary general at the Department of Justice sacrificed themselves. His handling of the most recent revelations from Maurice McCabe have greatly hastened his departure.

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