Friday 31 October 2014

Decision time for Enda if Europe comes calling

The tide has turned for the Taoiseach and EU top job is a chance for him to make a dignified exit

Published 15/06/2014 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny

ONE of the top regrets of the more astute wing of Bertie Ahern's followers is that, back in the day when Mr Ahern was the uncrowned Charlemagne of Europe, he did not assent to the lascivious invitations to become its president.

Of course, Bertie was far too much of a Drumcondra ward boss to be seduced by the romantic pavilions of Paris when Croker was waiting for you on every given Sunday.

Given that it was 2004 and his main political opponent was Enda, the then Taoiseach understandably believed hard times and the bitter word would never come to his gate.

Hindsight, though, tells us that, had he then gone, Mr Ahern's historic place would have consisted of being the most loved Irish politician since Daniel O'Donnell – apologies, Daniel O'Connell.

Now, intriguingly, as talk rises for the second time this year of a big European job going a-begging, could it really be the case that Enda, after a mere three years in office, is facing a similar dilemma?

It couldn't come at a better time, for FG is now eating itself and its Health Minister, without salt, every week. Nothing epitomised how the political Ides have turned black for Kenny more last week,than the chilly reaction to his response to Tuam.

That overwrought style, which worked in Cloyne, on this occasion left the Taoiseach resembling one of those ham Shakespearean actors who have been on the stage too long and too often.

As the ready up of the banking inquiry was chased out of the Seanad amidst a welter of comparisons to Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia, we are living in a changed dispensation.

Enda going off to Europe might once have been the idea that dare not speak but

Europe could represent the best personal bailout he will ever get from the woes that have followed this administration since Ireland's own exit from the bailout.

The delightful nature of the current European offer is that it might even cater to Enda's perceived weaknesses in politics.

You see, no matter what they claim about wishing to cultivate youthful radicalism, the last thing Angela, Francois, Dave and the lads want, when it comes to a post like the presidency of the European Council, is some sort of ideologically driven, iconoclastic, radical reformer.

Happily, the total absence of such qualities is precisely why the 'Dear Leader' is the man in the gap, with the CV for the job.

The Taoiseach, of course, has already passed the EU chalice a couple of times, but, as his party and government fall apart, Mr Kenny is learning the hard way that it takes very little in Irish politics before you are in 'burn them all, laddie' country.

Happily a slight window of opportunity exists for the 'Dear Leader' to exit with no shortage of dignity . . . as of now.

Should 'Europe's Call' come, Enda can go before the cameras and indulge in plenty of rodomontade about 'promises kept' to guide poor Ireland out of Troika bondage and a mandate fulfilled.

It will be a wrench for the Taoiseach to abandon his plans to lead Fine Gael to a historic second election success and those dreams of being a golfing President in the Park.

But if he still has functioning political antennae he must know that those hopes are beginning to fade as swiftly as the long summer evenings when September arrives. Enda may still have the heels dug in, but, he is perilously close to running out of scapegoats for FG's ongoing decline.

Should that happen, his own will inevitably turn and say 'Taoiseach, have you ever thought that the trouble might be you?'.

Though he will not admit it publicly, a small part of Enda must be wondering might it be better to slip out the political gate with the speed of the dog that has robbed the butcher's sausage.

Every political career, after all, ends in failure and generally the failure comes rather sooner than expected.

John Drennan

Sunday Independent

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