Kenny stands by his man while the potshots fly
SOMETIMES it's hard to be a Taoiseach, giving all your loyalty to just one man. But on Saturday night it was Enda's turn to walk that lonesome stretch of country-and-western road known as the Tammy Wynette Highway.
It was eerily like a Nashville bar in Leinster House last week, what with all sorts of folk choosing to Stand By Their Man -- or not. In the Dail, Joan Burton defended the bullet-ridden James Reilly, while also warning: "I'm no Tammy Wynette."
And her former colleague Roisin Shortall dramatically revealed herself to be a devotee of Tammy's other big hit: D-I-V-O-R-C-E.
And after, Roisin stuck so many stilettos into the Health Minister during her Saturday morning interview with Marian Finucane, it was clear that somebody needed to apply some plasters to James Reilly, stat.
So when the Taoiseach arrived at the Burlington Hotel that evening for Fine Gael's annual presidential dinner, accompanied by his wife Fionnuala and daughter Aoibhinn, he firmly stood by his man -- even though James Reilly has an uncomfortable habit of doing things that he doesn't understand.
Enda immediately borrowed one of the Three Monkeys -- hear no evil -- and declared that he hadn't heard the incendiary interview earlier in the day. And he then firmly backed the beleaguered bungler.
"Dr Reilly as minister has the full confidence of the Government in implementing a very difficult area of challenge for Government and that's to restructure the health system," he stated, and repeated this assertion for good measure, insisting the minister had his "full support and confidence".
And Enda inadvertently did James another favour -- while the Taoiseach was defending his honour to a gaggle of media in the foyer of the hotel, the man himself was able to stroll unnoticed and unpestered by pesky press into the Burlington.
Perhaps all the recent rumbles and ri-ra between James and Roisin have rattled Fine Gael a little, for despite the standing-room-only crowd packed into the hotel's ballroom, the atmosphere was a bit subdued.
Though another loyal comrade, Phil Hogan -- whose frequent appearances in the headlines have also forced Enda to do the Tammy thing on his behalf -- raised a laugh when he took to the microphone and called for hush.
As the room quietened, Phil said: "That's the most respect I've got in a long time."
The Kilkenny man also pointed out that the Galway hurlers were staying in the Burlington before the match -- "so everybody stay up late and make plenty of noise", he naughtily suggested.
Then Phil introduced Enda to the stage. "The Taoiseach is spending every second, every minute and every hour of every day to achieve our national objectives," he declared. "So the road ahead is difficult, but we can be sure that we have somebody that is trusted to do the job."
The audience stood and applauded as Enda made his way to the stage -- and none more heartily than Dr Reilly.
The trouble is, few country-and-western songs have a happy ending, and Roisin 'Reno' Shortall hinted that she would continue to take pot-shots at both the Health Minister and the Tanaiste from the backbenches.
And sometimes it's mighty hard to stand by your man while you're also diving for cover.