Sunday 25 September 2016

Enda helped the economy recover - but at what cost?

Published 12/09/2015 | 02:30

Unfortunately for the Taoiseach, public confidence and trust in his leadership appears to have eroded again
Unfortunately for the Taoiseach, public confidence and trust in his leadership appears to have eroded again

Bar an unexpected twist in our economic fortunes, the name 'Enda Kenny' will be forever synonymous with Ireland's recovery.

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He will be remembered in many households as the man who stepped up to the plate and led, at a time when leadership did not appear to exist in Irish politics.

When a tired and frustrated electorate went to the polls on February 25, 2011, they opted for the political party that was most likely to steady the ship.

Voters felt bruised. Their families were suffering. They needed to feel hope again and they turned to Fine Gael. Enda Kenny set himself a difficult test that day - to restore the public finances and get people back to work.

But it was a test he has passed.

That is why there is a real sense of bewilderment within the Coalition over why the masterplan doesn't seem to work any more.

Why are so many voters tempted, on one hand, to support Fianna Fáil - the party that caused them so much pain in the first place?

And why are so many others turning to Sinn Féin - a group accused of having policies that would plunge the country into a new type of economic abyss?

The answer is, in part at least, because of Enda Kenny.

When Leo Varadkar said during the infamous Fine Gael heave that the public don't have confidence in Enda Kenny, he meant it at that moment in time.

But unfortunately for the Taoiseach, public confidence and trust in his leadership appears to have eroded again.

His record will always be associated too with controversies. The Irish Water fiasco, the John McNulty cronyism affair and his role in the departure of a former Garda Commissioner are to name but a few.

The Fennelly Commission report is particularly damaging to Mr Kenny's reputation.

While Mr Justice Nial Fennelly clears him of "sacking" Martin Callinan, Mr Kenny's claims that he has been exonerated is insulting to the public.

But even before the publication of the extraordinary findings, Mr Kenny's lack of popularity was already an issue.

As Taoiseach, he must take responsibility for the record number of controversies involving a single public utility.

It is he, not Phil Hogan, who should stand up and say the roll-out of water charges has gone spectacularly wrong.

Back in 2011, Mr Kenny also promised to deliver a "democratic revolution".

He has failed on that promise and deep down, he probably knows it too.

But we are now on the cusp of a completely new election campaign that could produce a result causing profound consequences for the country's future.

If Mr Kenny expects to be given the same type of mandate from voters in 2016, it is his duty to make promises he intends to keep.

The challenge for Fine Gael now is to restore people's faith in politics and in the man they once trusted to do them proud.

Irish Independent

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