News Fionnan Sheahan

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Fionnan Sheahan: Kenny connects on trivia, not substance

Published 23/11/2012 | 05:00

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ENDA Kenny revealed in recent days how he inadvertently signed a form as an eight-year-old to become a Franciscan monk.

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The Taoiseach also disclosed yesterday how he frequently speaks with his Ukranian counterpart about the similarities between our musical cultures.

In contrast to his woeful performance in the Dail on live television on the Savita Halappanavar investigation, Mr Kenny has been at ease at other events. The first disclosure came two days ago at the official opening of the Merchants Quay homeless centre in Dublin, an admirable and impressive facility run in conjunction with the Franciscan Order.

And the second insight came at a high-brow lunch at the influential Brussels-based German thinktank, the Konrad Adeneuer Stiftung.

In both locations, Mr Kenny's affability came to the fore.

At home, his ability to connect with people often leaves a question mark over his political read on an issue as sensitive as the Halappanavar case.

He can relate to those at a centre for vulnerable people, some of whom have suffered from homelessness and addiction.

But his personal touch let him down on the issue of the death of Savita, as his response to the wider debate on the lack of clarity over abortion appeared to be conservative and failed to grasp the public mood.

He also floundered on the issue of the objections of Praveen Halapppanavar to the inquiry.

The Taoiseach goes down well on the European stage, although he does have a habit of turning on the schmaltz a little too heavily.

He knows how to deliver a pre-prepared speech with confidence and he largely breezed through questions put to him by Brussels-based EU Ambassadors.

Ahead of Ireland's EU Presidency, he'll have to brush up on some of the detail and read the briefing notes more carefully, but he largely has a broad grasp of the big issues. And some of his throw away comments, aimed at lightening the mood, were perhaps lost on his multi-national audience.

He notably spoke positively about the future of the EU and seeing the challenges as opportunities.

His interpersonal skills will also be useful when he is tasked with reaching consensus among countries with divergent views.

The Taoiseach, however, is in danger of contracting the same affliction as his predecessor – only turning it on when the TV cameras are off.

Irish Independent

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