Saturday 1 October 2016

It reflects badly on a leader to be so hands-off as storm rages

Published 02/01/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny as he tours the area of Carrick-On-Shannon following flooding. Photo: PA
Taoiseach Enda Kenny as he tours the area of Carrick-On-Shannon following flooding. Photo: PA

"You're damned if you do, damned if you don't," was the response of one senior Government figure when quizzed over Taoiseach Enda Kenny's remarkable decision to disappear off the radar during the aftermath of Storm Frank.

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It is just one of several theories to have surfaced within Coalition circles as a result of Mr Kenny's peculiar response to the events of recent days.

Some within Mr Kenny's own party believe he was ill-advised by his closest aides - a charge that has been levelled on numerous occasions in the past.

This theory, whether it is true or not, is one which has merit.

It has been reported in recent months, including by this newspaper, that Fine Gael plans to limit Mr Kenny's media appearances during the General Election campaign because of concerns over his lack of popularity.

When you lead a team with heavy-lifters and talented individuals such as Simon Harris - who has displayed exceptional leadership in response to the flood crisis - you have the luxury of staying at the back of the stage from time to time.

Therefore, why would Mr Kenny's strategists change tack at this point, given the election campaign itself is almost in full flow?

But others in the party proposed a different hypothesis for Mr Kenny's absence.

They claim the Taoiseach felt there was a clear attempt by the opposition and the media to "bounce" him into full gear once the flood crisis took hold.

Regardless of the reasons, there is no doubt Mr Kenny's decision to avoid the cameras is one he may live to regret. In constituencies which have been worst-hit, the flooding will be the number one issue raised on the doorsteps during the campaign.

Supporters

Mr Kenny is an individual who on so many occasions, both at home and abroad, has shown compassion and leadership that has made his country proud.

But it ill-behoves a political leader to adopt a hands-off approach when the very people who supported his rise to power are in their hour of need.

These are his communities, his supporters, and they felt their cries were falling on deaf ears.

At best, Mr Kenny's approach towards the events of recent days was simply a case of poor political judgment.

But at worst, it has given the clearest indication yet that complacency and arrogance may have seeped into the Fine Gael party because it is riding high in the opinion polls.

Irish Independent

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