Monday 5 December 2016

Taoiseach's steely resolve shows he is no Lucky General

Since he became leader of Fine Gael, Enda Kenny has endured ferocious critcism. Sarah Carey asks, are the critics being fair?

Published 17/04/2016 | 02:30

'Is it about time we asked: is the criticism of Enda Kenny fair?' Photo: Tom Burke
'Is it about time we asked: is the criticism of Enda Kenny fair?' Photo: Tom Burke

I spend most of my time at the end of a cul de sac in Co Meath. So when I was swanning around Dublin 2 on Friday afternoon and bumped into Oliver Sears, I seized the chance to get an opinion from outside my own sub-group. I asked the well-read, Jewish art gallery owner what he thought of Enda Kenny. "It's funny you should ask," he replied. "He was at the Holocaust Memorial service in January. He spoke for 25 minutes. He was captivating and honest. He's an honest man. We all looked at each other and said; 'Where did this guy come from?'"

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That precisely sums up the problem of Enda Kenny. Even after all this time, people who expect nothing are genuinely surprised to meet a man who resembles in no way the hesitant, oddly-mannered guy they see on the telly. He's sensitive and intelligent, full of empathy and with a deep sense of history.

Not only does this rarely come across when he's in front of a camera but members of the media, who meet him regularly, relentlessly reinforce the idea of an accidental Taoiseach, blithely ignoring his 40-year political career. When forced to acknowledge his economic achievements, they patronisingly declare him a "Lucky General". Fianna Failers are naturally bitter when reminded he's done a decent job cleaning up their mess. That, I can understand. But some commentators are deeply personal about his supposed failings and insist, "It's not Fine Gael that's the problem. It's Kenny." Personally, I think Fine Gael's problems are collective, not individual. I know there's something up with his public persona, but I just don't get the visceral reaction he provokes.

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