Monday 26 September 2016

Endless Enda is keen to stay for longer - but will it be his choice?

Published 17/05/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Castlebar yesterday for the laying of the foundation stone of the new swimming pool complex and outdoor education centre at Lough Lannagh. Photo: Michael Donnelly
Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Castlebar yesterday for the laying of the foundation stone of the new swimming pool complex and outdoor education centre at Lough Lannagh. Photo: Michael Donnelly

Endless Enda is back and normal service has been resumed. Yesterday, it was a sod-turning ceremony for a new swimming pool on one of his 'Mayo Mondays' and today he is off to Washington to plant a tree.

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The Taoiseach will be missing the first real Dáil sitting since the General Election on February 26 and he may well be absent when his new Government loses a vote to the Opposition tomorrow night.

But there will be plenty more occasions for fighting with Micheál Martin and the left-wing of Irish politics who now occupy the 'know it all' benches in Leinster House, because it appears that Enda Kenny is here to stay.

Voters might have thought they ousted him on election day, but in fact they reinstalled the Castlebar man for as long as he can possibly hang on.

Mr Kenny revealed yesterday that he wants to serve a full term as Taoiseach before stepping aside ahead of the next election to let Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney or Frances Fitzgerald battle for the Fine Gael leadership.

"I've always said that my intention would be to serve the full term but not to lead the party into the next general election.

"I've made that perfectly clear and that's where I am, but I have a lot of work to do in the meantime," he said.

In reality, he is not naive enough to believe that he will be able to stay that long, with the widely spoken expectation within Fine Gael ranks being that he will go quietly into the night within 12 months.

That view should be challenged, though, because Mr Kenny's place in the Department of An Taoiseach was hard fought this time.

In 2011, he walked into Government Buildings following what he called a "democratic revolution".

This time, it followed a literal age of enlightenment that Mr Kenny likes to call "new politics".

He has said that he expects things to settle down once people realise an "attitudinal change" is required from Government, the Opposition and the public service.

"From now on, it's got to be an understanding that all of these matters have to be discussed and published and made available for the information of the public and I think in that sense there's a great freedom and a liberty here that has not been available or wasn't necessary before and caused quite a deal of difficulties in time past.

"So it's a brave new world in the sense of a very different kind of Dáil and I hope working together in a new way for 'Team Ireland' that the decisions being made by Government and being implemented will be for the interest of the people and for their benefit and that's what good politics should be about," he added.

Things are settling down so quickly now that Mr Kenny was back to telling stories about meeting people in the streets yesterday. This time, it was a man who thanked him "for volunteering to run our country".

There is a point in that - because while others in the 'shouting classes' sat on their hands over recent months, Mr Kenny did fight for his right to stay in office.

He has shown huge determination to remain as Taoiseach - but if he tries to stay in-situ for the full length of his Dáil, he will do so while looking over his shoulder at the pretenders to the throne.

Irish Independent

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