Sunday 23 October 2016

It's a game of two heaves for embattled Enda Kenny

Published 15/06/2014 | 02:30

Is Enda Kenny's leadership in trouble?
Is Enda Kenny's leadership in trouble?

SETTLING down to watch Ingerland dramatically struggle to a one-all draw with the Yanks in the World Cup this very weekend four years ago, my mobile phone bleeped.

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"Game on," read the brief message. It wasn't about the football. The cryptic message signalled the Fine Gael leadership heave had begun.

Richard Bruton spoke to Enda Kenny that day and told him he no longer had confidence in him as leader. The decisive incident being a poll showing Fine Gael overtaken by the Labour Party can be viewed now with a large dollop of irony.

How times have changed.

The rest of the Fine Gael leadership heave is, as they say, history. Except Enda Kenny is again facing a critical moment in his lengthy political career.

This time around, his position is rock solid and there is no internal party challenge.

But the pressure is coming externally from a public expressing the same doubts about his leadership of the country as surfaced in relation to his leadership of the party four years ago.

After coming to power with the largest majority in the history of the State, the Taoiseach's Coalition is dangling precariously with most now expecting it not to last its full term.

The exit from the bailout saw Fine Gael and Labour having credible chances of being returned to office – albeit with a reduced mandate.

Following a calamitous half year where the Government has displayed incompetence and lost focus and drive, the formation of the next government with neither of the coalition partners is a strong possibility.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore is about to depart the scene, leaving a tricky new relationship for the Taoiseach to form at the top of the Government.

The cabinet reshuffle presents the opportunity for Kenny to show he is not as conservative as everybody suspects by making some dramatic changes.

After losing loyalists in Frank Flannery and Alan Shatter so far this year, Kenny must determine the fates of lieutenants James Reilly and Phil Hogan. A Taoiseach can never have friends for long.

His chances of returning Fine Gael to power for the first time are ebbing away.

Aspirations of heading to Aras an Uachtarain in 2018 can be forgotten.

Kenny has retained the ability to be affable on a one-to-one level but his judgement on the national mood is shot.

His insistence on the Government having a majority on the banking inquiry – even after the Coalition incompetently cocked up that arrangement – shows how far he has drifted from the heady days of promising 'New Politics'.

He now leads a Government that lurches from political incident to political accident and can't even organise a vote on a committee properly. All this time, the option to cut and run to Brussels is still there.

Last week he admitted he had been approached earlier in the year to see if he would be interested in taking up an EU post. The vacancies are still open.

Game on, Enda.

So start playing or get off the pitch.

Sunday Independent

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