independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Michael Brennan: Best chance for a benign Budget is if our obsessed Taoiseach sees Mayo win

Enda Kenny holds a photograph of the Mayo team of 1936

Every Taoiseach likes to see their county win the All-Ireland final – but for Enda Kenny it is nothing short of an obsession.

It runs deep in his family because his father Henry won an All-Ireland medal in 1936 at midfield with Mayo. That team is still displayed on the walls of pubs and hotels in Mayo – along with the last Mayo winners in 1950 and 1951.

Like many Mayo fans, Mr Kenny has a seemingly endless supply of optimism that this could be the year.

Those who know him say he was similarly hyped up when Mayo reached the All-Ireland final in 2004 and 2006. They were crushed by Kerry twice, but Mr Kenny perked up again when they got Donegal last year. He told factory workers that he was going to ask Pope Benedict to pray for Mayo during his visit to Rome. But there was no divine intervention and the pain continued.

A wounded Mr Kenny later told Irish exiles at a dinner in Brussels that he was going to legislate for Mayo to win the All-Ireland.

Fine Gael's legal adviser Brian Hunt took him up on this suggestion – and wrote a draft bill providing for the repatriation of Sam Maguire to Mayo. It even provided for all combustible material in the country to be transported to the county to fuel the bonfires from Ballyhaunis to Belmullet.

But like everything to do with All-Irelands and Mayo, there was a sting in the tail. It was a parting gift from Mr Hunt, who has cut his ties with Fine Gael and is now providing legal advice to Democracy Matters.

Mr Kenny's obsession with Mayo's quest for Sam Maguire was again evident during his recent meeting with the first African-American governor of Massachusetts. When Deval Patrick presented him with an engraved bowl from the people of Massachusetts, his first reaction was to say: "It's a mini-version of the Sam Maguire". And he went on to tell Mr Patrick about the decades of pain experienced by Mayo supporters.

But hope springs eternal for Mr Kenny. He is glad that Mayo are playing Dublin instead of Kerry because they have a much better record against them in Croke Park. And his optimism was on full display at a recent event at the Dublin West Education Centre for teachers last week.

He was there to launch a new action plan on physical education drawn up by teachers – but half of them seemed to have Mayo connections.

Mr Kenny was in his element – having already spotted a retired PE teacher from Mayo in the room. He told the crowd that Denis 'Chopper' O'Boyle from Claremorris had left a mark on his "fifth vertebrae" in a football match in Mayo in 1974. And he went on to say that the Mayo fans were already leaving from Seattle, San Francisco and Sydney in search of the Sam Maguire Cup.

"They are coming home because we are going to bring him back. We have waited 62 years for this man. I hope we have a truly outstanding game and that football will win and that we exorcise the ghosts of the past since 1951," he said.

Mr Kenny also said he had warned GAA president Liam O Neill that if the Mayo team triumphed: "I'm going to present the bloody cup myself".

For good measure, he promised to declare a national holiday.

Then it was time for a final word from the Mayo-born director of the centre, Gerard McHugh from Ballintubber, who gave a master class in how to tap into Mr Kenny's desire for All-Ireland glory. He spoke of how he had been given a tour of the Dail by "the late, great Henry Kenny" who incidentally won an All-Ireland medal with Mayo.

And he reminded Mr Kenny that RTE had broadcast footage of him scoring a goal for his club Islandeady on the day. But he said what people did not know was that Islandeady had lost the match that day back on Easter Sunday 1981 to Ballintuber. Or that they had been playing in a competition for the 'Horan Cup' – donated by an uncle of current Mayo manager James Horan.

Few want to think about what might happen to Mr Kenny's mood if Mayo lose again. One Fine Gael insider optimistically reckons it won't make much difference. "If you're a Mayo supporter, you're used to bouncing back from defeats."

But all the odds are stacked in favour of a Mayo victory being the country's best bet for a more benign Budget. If Mr Kenny achieved his dream of being a Mayo Taoiseach on the day his county ended the famine, he might be a lot more amenable to agreeing to cutbacks of less than the current €3.1bn target.

Irish Independent

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