Friday 30 September 2016

When I'm 64: the triumph of Enda, the accidental survivor

Our Taoiseach may be in politics for 40 years, but it's still a case of 'Enda, we hardly know you', says John Drennan

Published 19/04/2015 | 02:30

LONG AND WINDING ROAD: Enda’s journey to the top
LONG AND WINDING ROAD: Enda’s journey to the top

A certain significant birthday for a certain significant little fellow is coming up soon.

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Next week, the eternal Dorian Gray of Fine Gael, Enda Kenny will turn 64. There's not far to go until you are an old-age pensioner now, Enda. We suspect, however, that our political Goldilocks is in no mood to be pensioned off.

Instead, we are only at the Enda the beginning - well, until a significant vacancy comes up when Michael D, like the rest of the public sector elite, rides off with the full saddlebags.

Mind you, Enda, as you venture ever further into your golden years, you must admit privately that it's a funny old game. Here you are, both a political child of Liam Cosgrave and the offspring of a land where the choice of TV channels consisted of RTE One, but now leading a country that aims to be the digital capital of Europe.

Fair play to you Enda; you're a stayer, anyway.

The Ireland in which you cut your political teeth banned homosexuality and condoms until, in the latter case, women brought some from Belfast on the train.

Of course, when you kicked off, if women were in the civil service, they had to resign their posts under the marriage bar.

The self-same women still cause you a lot of trouble these days with the looking for promotions and all that, but if you are to be believed, after the next election, half of the cabinet will be female.

Don't forget that, Enda, because you know what the women are like. They do remember everything. Rather like you, in fact.

It has to be said, Enda, that for most of your career you didn't open your beak about any of this, being busy as you were with the Playboy of the Western World-style nodding and winkling and fist-pumping and high-fiving.

But here you are now, the top dude bringing through a gay marriage referendum and slapping Leo on the back in Pantibar.

That's a long old road from the world of Hall's Pictorial Weekly and the Fine Gael of 1976 whose cabinet probably had similar views on homosexuality to those of Queen Vic on the lesbians.

Anyway, it's a funny old world, for there you are anyway Enda, top of the tree at 63 and ready for more when you turn 64.

Though you've got fairly used to the power thing, and we've almost got used to you being the Taoiseach, you must wonder what on earth you are doing here.

Few of the old grey eminences of the Cosgrave era, or the Garret or the Bruton or the Noonan eras, ever thought you'd be Taoiseach, or that you would be playing ducks and drakes with a Fianna Fail party that's threatening to become more harmless than the Labour party.

Even 13 years ago, who would have thought it, when, after being defeated by Michael Noonan, Enda wasn't even given the small respect of a front-bench position on the new leader's shadow cabinet.

Though Enda had shown well in the leadership race, many suspected this was due to a gentle desire amongst others to ensure that the beating was not too rough.

Noonan was rather less careful. The shrewd one weighed, measured and humiliated Enda so brutally he was left at the back of the hall in an old grey coat to watch the apotheosis of his rival.

The world was scarcely any kinder when Fine Gael was reduced to a collective of zombies in 2002 and Enda got the top job because, well, he was the liveliest of the zombies.

It didn't start too well with the n-word joke - no, we won't go back into that now, Enda - and the Dame Edna and Kenny Lite nicknames.

Ah, but sure the 'smart lads' always had it in for you, Enda.

Enda was a 'Cosgrave days of blue loyalty, no communism, we support the gardai' kind of fellow.

Do you remember that shower, Enda - you must, actually, given that most are in your cabinet - the fellows who, when you had won all the seats in 2007, came looking for your head in 2010, just at the point where a blind guard dog would have led Fine Gael into power?

Fair play to you, Enda, they said. A great job done there, but now that we're going to get into government, it might be time to be moving along.

Remember, just in case you've forgotten, Leo even suggested you'd make a great foreign affairs minister.

Mind you, that dig in the ribs you gave him last autumn about more doing and less talking after yourself gave him the poisoned chalice of health, suggests you haven't.

Brian Cowen, for all his faults, a smart lad too, regarded you with undisguised contempt. He was far more impressed by the Mrs Doubtfire of Dun Laoghaire.

Even after you survived the Fine Gael Battle of the Alamo, the story was that Big Doc Reilly, Cute Old Phil and Little Alan Shatter were the ones who saved you.

You, by contrast, were just an accidental bystander who, like Gerry Adams in a different war, never fired a shot in anger.

Oddly enough though, when one looks around the political field, you and Frances (watch her, Enda; despite of all the training by Phil, there's still a bit of the Garret gene there) you are the only man left standing.

After three years of being broiled in Environment, Cute Old Phil couldn't bail out of the ship fast enough, while Alan, well you showed Alan more loyalty than he was worth, but the man had to go.

As for the Doc Reilly, he's around, but he is the political ghost of careers past.

Of course, after you got the top job they still 'misunderestimated' you.

You'll recall all the smart lads then also talked the talk about how Labour's Grumpy Old Men would run the show.

Well, as the blood ran out from the carpet after 2014. Rabbitte and those are gone, and here you are still going like the cat in the song that they couldn't kill.

Oddly enough. among the patronising one figure who regarded you with unadorned suspicion and hostility was that unique judge of men, Bertie Ahern. He saw in you something of a doppelganger.

As you head for round two, perhaps those comparisons to Bertie Lite were not as insulting as you pretended they were. But, Enda, you and I know that already.

Sunday Independent

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