Saturday 22 October 2016

Kenny's Seanad cronies will have Taoiseach's back

Nominations are far from 'new politics' but Kenny does not care how he is perceived

Published 29/05/2016 | 02:30

Up-and-coming guitarist Bruce Springsteen was in the audience at Croke Park on Friday when Enda Kenny, above, displayed the full range of his talents
Up-and-coming guitarist Bruce Springsteen was in the audience at Croke Park on Friday when Enda Kenny, above, displayed the full range of his talents
Chicago men: President Obama and Billy Lawless

True to form and with great predictability, the Taoiseach has nominated to the Seanad former colleagues and current cronies who will shore up his leadership of Fine Gael for the foreseeable future.

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More than that, however, Enda Kenny's choices betray not just his first and foremost instinct to protect himself, but also his apparent view that this so-called 'new politics' thing is not to be taken too seriously by anybody, least of all by himself.

All of this should lead us to the conclusion that the Taoiseach just does not care any more what others think and say about him.

So if he wants to air guitar at a Bruce Springsteen concert, so be it; if he wants to say there's nothing he can do about gang warfare in Dublin, well, that's the way it is too.

And if he wants to stuff the Seanad he tried to abolish with pals he feels will have his back, then there's nothing much anybody can do or say about that either that will give him a sleepless night.

This throwing off of the shackles can go either one of two ways: the real Taoiseach will be finally revealed to be the great leader we are repeatedly told he was always destined to become; or to be the disaster waiting to happen, a sneak preview of which became evident during the recent election campaign.

Truth is, the jury is still out on this one: Kenny may yet turn out to be great, but if his Seanad nominations are anything to go by - and they are - then the received wisdom is that he may not, in fact, be inclined to trouble himself too much in this regard either.

We are told that three of the 11 nominations - Joan Freeman of the charity Pieta House, Collette Kelleher of the charity Alzheimer's Ireland and the businessman, Padraig O Ceidigh, founder of Aer Arann - were at the behest of Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin, in return for the arrangement that allowed Kenny to be elected Taoiseach in the first place.

There are several in Fianna Fail this weekend not best pleased that its leader did not follow the Kenny route and position a few arch-cronies in the Seanad, but, based on his recommendations to the Taoiseach, it seems that Micheal Martin is more anxious to, or be seen to, take this 'new politics' idea more seriously.

Enda, however, has made sure to look after his two Mayo-area colleagues, Michelle Mulherin and John O'Mahony, as well as fallen colleagues, his auld muckers James Reilly, Ray Butler and Frank Feighan (also from the West), who took one for the team on Roscommon Hospital back in the day.

The appointment of Paudie Coffey is also notable only insofar as the former junior minister will keep an eye on the Fine Gael perennial maverick, John Deasy in Waterford, but Tom Sheahan, who vastly out-polled Coffey in the Seanad elections, must be wondering where he went wrong.

No doubt James 'Bonkers' Bannon, who also lost his seat, will be disappointed too, as would be, say, Tom Hayes and Noel Coonan - it seems Enda could not decide between them, so abandoned both - which leaves Fine Gael without representation in Tipperary, much to the pleasure of Michael Lowry, who supports the Government.

Of course, the Taoiseach could not look after everybody, not even Jim D'Arcy, one of Fine Gael's finer representatives in the Oireachtas, or, indeed, Jimmy Deenihan, who has done good work for the Diaspora. Perhaps the former Kerry TD intends to step away entirely. His role will now be taken up by none other than Billy Lawless. Billy who? Well, that's what they are asking Stateside too this weekend.

"The Taoiseach had to overlook a ton of work done by others for the Irish over here to pick Lawless, who, it should be noted, was not even on Irish community radar, or indeed US political radar, when we started working with Kennedy and McCain for the ill-fated immigration effort in early 2006," according to my sources overnight.

Still, Billy is another Fine Gael Whest of Ireland old-boy, a former (unsuccessful) local elections candidate in Galway and a publican made good in a bar business in Chicago, Barack Obama's old stomping ground. We wish him well.

As we do Marie-Louise O'Donnell, also from Mayo, and known to be a fond dinner companion of Mrs Kenny.

All hail new politics.

Sunday Independent

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