Wednesday 24 August 2016

Enda takes a tumble but vows not to fall short of party's goals

Published 01/03/2014 | 02:30

IT'S all about timing, is politics. Having negotiated all sorts of political stumbling-blocks in recent weeks, the Taoiseach almost took a literal stumble of his own as he took centre-stage at the curtain-raiser of his party's Ard Fheis last night.

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Just before 8pm, Enda bustled towards the stage of the hall to deliver his opening address – but his entrance could've ended up more spectacular than he intended, as he almost came a cropper in front of his audience by stumbling twice en route to the podium.

"You have to watch your step around here," he quipped cheerfully, before launching into a speech which was serious rather than upbeat, and dwelt at length on health-related matters.

But at the end, he encouraged the delegates "talk about anything you like – football, politics, and don't be afraid to tell us what's on your mind".

Afterwards he walked about meeting delegates, and laughed off his almost-dramatic entrance. "As Shakespeare said, "wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast," he joked.

But the timing was with Fine Gael in other ways. After all the Shatter Shenanigans of recent weeks, the hoohah simmered down – for the moment anyway – just in time for the kick-off. And something else kicking off in the RDS tonight is the Leinster-Glasgow Warriors rugby match, at 8.30pm, precisely the same hour the Taoiseach begins his keynote televised speech to his own ranks of Team Enda.

Enda Kenny trips and nearly falls as he arrives on stage at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis. Picture: NIALL CARSON/ PA WIRE
Enda Kenny trips and nearly falls as he arrives on stage at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis. Picture: NIALL CARSON/ PA WIRE

This timing could be a bad thing – a political address doesn't really have the TV viewer pulling power of a tasty sports fixture. But on a bright note, there'll be loads of loud cheering inside and outside the hall, and the whole place will be coming down with Blueshirts of one sort or the other.

There was a bit of a buzz about the RDS as delegates and politicians arrived for the opening session of the two-day event. The floods have receded, exposing a few green shoots. Jobless figures are finally starting to go in the right direction. The troika have left. The Coalition are tipping along together without too much crockery being broken in Government Buildings.

So tails were cautiously up. The larger-than-usual numbers in the RDS were swelled by posses of neatly turned out candidates for the local elections.

Among them was former boxer Kenneth Egan, who's running for a seat on the South Dublin County Council. He was being shown around his first Ard Fheis by Frances Fitzgerald.

"I'm going to be doing a lot of listening," he said. (Though someone should tell him that if things get a bit heated on the floor during debates on various motions, the Olympic silver medallist might have to take a more active role).

As everyone awaited the arrival of the Taoiseach , ministers including Michael Noonan, Leo Varadkar, Phil Hogan and Simon Coveney milled about, chatting to delegates.

Behind the Agriculture Minister was a large food stand containing 200 different stalls from a variety of companies who each shelled out €250 to feed the Fine Gael masses with samples of their produce.

"It seemed like a good idea to showcase Irish food this way," said Simon, who would be well advised to pack a decent lunch when he heads off to New Zealand and Australia on Paddy's Day duty later this month.

"I'll be in six cities in eight days," he explained.

There were other stands busily setting up in the hall, too. Cork South Central deputy Jerry Buttimer was unleashing his inner Blue Peter child, affixing a Fine Gael LGBT sign in a flurry of velcro and sticky tape. And undoubtedly there'll be plenty of interest in one of the justice motions up for debate this afternoon. Put down by the Bishopstown West branch, it calls on the Ard Fheis to support the passing of the forthcoming referendum on same-sex marriage.

If all of politics is a stage, then another player with impeccable timing is Lucinda Creighton. As the Ard Fheis began, across the city the former Fine Gael minister was delivering a speech on what she described as "the belligerence" of the political whip system.

Shakespeare also said something about weaving tangled webs. But enough about all those gardai-related kerfuffles . . .

Irish Independent

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