Monday 24 October 2016

It's past time-to-go time, Enda - political life is unfair and brutal

Published 18/07/2016 | 02:30

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, TD
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, TD

Anyone out there remember the "Border Fascist"? It was an annual send-up of local newspapers which appeared in the pop magazine Hot Press. Though its focus was on places to the north of this island, its crazy take on life had great resonance for this writer who spent many years patrolling the local newsbeat at the other end of the country.

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Hands up! My wages were paid in the first and second newspaper I ever worked at by the revenue from small advertisements. A big portion of that was the "In Memoriam" notices from people recording how they missed their nearest and dearest.

These notices included heart-felt verses, some picked from an offered menu, and others composed by the bereaved relatives themselves. WB Yeats and his colleagues were not ubiquitous.

The "Border Fascist" excelled in parodying these sad ditties. What follows is not be to everybody's taste - perhaps some readers should look away now and desist. Another hands up - journalists are renowned for their ingratitude.

Otherwise try the "Border Fascist" line: "Life is sad and life is funny. You got cancer - we got the money. Always remembered by &c&c …"

Yep, that is pretty tasteless and brutal stuff. But it came to this writer's mind yesterday as I read the latest opinion poll results. It made me think: are we a complete shower of morons or what?

Fianna Fáil - upon whose watch we lost our sovereignty because they absolutely wanted to be elected for three consecutive government terms - are back in the ascendant. The Red C Sunday Business Post poll confirmed two other surveys in the Sunday Independent and The Irish Times which told us "F and F" are back in business.

One way or another we are talking about one in three voters opting for the "Soldiers of Density" - sorry, that should of course read, "Soldiers of Destiny".

But it's all well and good moralising about the resurgence of Micheál Martin's party. The bigger take-away story from yesterday's survey was all about Enda Kenny.

It showed that not only should An Taoiseach quit Government Buildings, he should do so quickly, shut the door behind him quietly, and, for all our sakes, make an effort to ensure a smooth take over by one or other of his would-be successors.

Back in 2012, when I was out of work, I was commissioned to write a book about Enda Kenny. It has to be said he was not friendly to the project which meant I was excluded from many first-hand sources. I spent eight months coalmining back in the local and national newspapers, a lot of time and money in the Registry of Births and Marriages, and much time talking to what enemies or rivals he ever had.

In reality, hugely-likeable Enda Kenny had few, if any, enemies. But the detractors and doubters were considerable in numbers.

To quicken up, what emerged was the image of a locally-seasoned and dug-in politician, who was too long under-rated and the victim of trendy metropolitan snobbishness. He was over-looked for promotion for a very long time.

After almost 10 years in the Dáil Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald gave him a junior ministry in February 1986. After near enough 20 years he got a full ministry from John Bruton in December 1994.

Don't start the fully-correct argument that Fine Gael were in the wilderness for much of Enda Kenny's time at Leinster House, which began in November 1975. The reality is that for much of those "Fine Gael wilderness years", Enda Kenny was not on various leaders' first teams.

Again we know that he triumphed and hung in to eventually win the party leadership in June 2002. He slowly helped Fine Gael to rejuvenate themselves and challenge Fianna Fáil's hegemony.

In June 2010 he defined himself as a politician with hidden steel as he fought off a leadership heave. Thus Enda Kenny became "The Unlikely Taoiseach" on March 9, 2011.

So, remind us how that one went? Many people - this writer included - believed it went well. On Enda Kenny's watch the EU-IMF-ECB Troika departed; unemployment near-enough halved and the economy went into economy mode. I was among the many people who believed, ultimately, he had to be headed back to Government Buildings.

There were of course errors. The move to introduce water charges showed how to make a calamity of a simple administrative task.

But the national shop was in a far better condition, heading into election 2016, than it was when Enda Kenny found it in spring 2011.

And then Enda Kenny made a major horse's collar of the February 2016 election campaign.

From day one in that campaign he showed that he really was not boned-up on the details of the national economy. It was a throw-back to the May 2007 general election, when the voters were ready to have a punt on Enda Kenny's Fine Gael, and then they feared he was not up to it.

In February 2007, the people opted instead in favour a rather tainted Bertie Ahern and his Fianna Fáil party. In February 2011, Enda Kenny achieved an historic victory and Fianna Fáil were on the verge of extinction.

Now we are tending towards a reversal in fortunes. This strange hybrid minority government is seen to be run by Fianna Fáil.

Yesterday's Red C survey strongly suggests that it is time Enda Kenny exited stage left as soon as possible. His party's fortunes would benefit from a new leader.

Irish Independent

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