Kenny, the lion of the desert, has turned into a lamb
The pylon row has seen him flip-flop over a big decision, writes Fionnan Sheahan
Taoiseach Enda Kenny must have bought a pair of flip-flops on his way home from the Gulf at the start of the month.
During his trade mission to Saudi Arabia, Mr Kenny was a lion of the desert in defending the Government's approach to pylons.
He linked the €3.2bn upgrade of the power network to youth emigration, by warning of the consequences of not providing the power infrastructure that was needed.
"Now I don't think it's right for any government to say that they can deny the next generation of young people in our country the right to have a job and to live and work in their own area if that be so," he said at the start of the month.
Mr Kenny maintained it was ironic people were telling him their children have to emigrate. "In many cases they emigrate to countries where these things are matter of course as providing infrastructure for development," he said.
The comments sparked a backlash and once Mr Kenny was back in Leinster House a week later, the lion was gone and he was timid as a lamb.
The flip began when Mr Kenny cast doubt over the plans on pylons by saying he wanted to see more debate and he was receiving contrasting advice from experts.
The flop came this week with the sudden announcement of an independent investigation to look at the overground and underground options on the Gridlink, Cork to Kildare via Wexford, and Gridlink, Mayo to Roscommon, projects.
But the shuffling continued when the North-South Interconnector was thrown into the mix.
New research is going to be conducted on the Gridlink and Gridwest projects to assess the overground and underground options.
At the very least, the investigation will delay the planning stage of the projects.
However, the North-South examinations will just involve a review of existing reports.
The cross-border line was not included in the cabinet decision or the initial remit of the expert panel.
Instead, it's now being added into the equation, on foot of a meeting between Mr Kenny and a number of Fine Gael backbenchers.
The move has created the possibility of buying the Coalition some time.
The proximity of the local and European elections cannot be removed from the thinking of the Government.
The muddle will allow the parties to claim the concerns of local communities are being addressed – until after polling day.
The development smacks of the worst type of political opportunism.
New politics is a casualty of the pylons controversy.