Wednesday 28 September 2016

Captain Kenny clears the decks and avoids any sharks lurking in election waters

Published 19/11/2015 | 02:30

Left to right: Ian Robertson, Professor of Psychology, Academic lead of the Global Brain Health Institute, Mary Sutton, Atlantic Philanthropies Country Director and Enda Kenny, An Taoiseach, Helen Rochford Brennan, Chairperson of the Irish Dementia Working
Left to right: Ian Robertson, Professor of Psychology, Academic lead of the Global Brain Health Institute, Mary Sutton, Atlantic Philanthropies Country Director and Enda Kenny, An Taoiseach, Helen Rochford Brennan, Chairperson of the Irish Dementia Working

A TD walked into the bar (this isn't the start of a joke, now) in Leinster House at lunchtime and looked around her. "It's very quiet, isn't it?" she remarked. The handful of patrons partaking of bowls of soup agreed that yes, it was fierce quiet indeed.

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There's a touch of the Mary Celeste about Leinster House these days. Captain Kenny and his officers are rooted to the bridge of the ship, assiduously avoiding choppy waters, icebergs, whirlpools and sharks.

The only object of interest on the horizon is the looming General Election. Decks are being briskly cleared of lingering legislation, bad ideas flung overboard or kicked as far as possible down the road and old policies reheated and relaunched, job announcements are lined up like traffic on the M50 and photo-opportunities have ministers circling like seagulls over a 99 cone.

The day dawned with an uncharacteristically subdued Leo Varadkar on 'Morning Ireland' trying to put a positive slant on the decision to say sayonara to the notion of Universal Health Insurance (UHI). "The model is too expensive," he explained.

Unsurprisingly, the opposition milled into the Taoiseach during Leaders' Questions. And they had an extra 24 hours to work themselves up into a right old lather of indignation, as the Government had cancelled on Tuesday all Dáil business where pesky questions might be asked, to devote four hours to statements on the Paris attacks.

Micheál Martin went in like a Cork ninja, flinging blades, spears and stars at Enda.

"In your political messages and speeches to the people and this Dáil, the truth simply does not matter. You will say anything, Taoiseach, to get elected. You will say anything to cover up something. You will deny reality and the truth when it stares you in the face," he began as a warm-up.

The Ceann Comhairle mildly remonstrated with the Fianna Fáil leader for suggesting that Enda tells porkies, but Micheál steamed on. "You break promise after promise, believing that media management will take care of everything."

On and on he went, throwing digs right, centre-right and centre over the abandonment of UHI.

The Taoiseach didn't turn a sandy hair at the flurry of dog's abuse. He even managed the odd wry smile. "Is anyone infallible?" he asked mildly. "I accept the report of the ESRI and the Government will not continue with that particular universal health insurance funding model."

A few months ago, such criticism would have rendered Enda snappy and tense like an unhappy wee terrier. But now he seeks to bob serenely along, picking no fights and courting no confrontations.

Another massive and potentially election-bothering can was lamped down the road during the afternoon, when the long-awaited interim report from the Fennelly Commission was released and it quickly became clear that Enda may well be retired and tending hanging baskets by the time the final report materialises.

Steady as she goes, lads.

Irish Independent

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