Thursday 27 October 2016

Kevin Doyle: Enda in a pair of wellies won't stop the rain - but this is about solidarity

Published 31/12/2015 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Reuters
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photo: Reuters

Enda Kenny in a pair of wellies won't stop the rain or scare Storm Gertrude away from our shores.

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He won't be able to calm the winds and nobody expects him to single-handedly dredge the Shannon.

But what the Taoiseach can do is show people that there is nothing more important on his agenda right now than the vast areas of his country that are being stolen from helpless families by the weather.

As the Army rushed to the streets of Graiguenamanagh, Enniscorthy and Bandon yesterday, one minister described it as akin to a war zone.

Sitting in reasonably dry Dublin or at a warm fire in Castlebar, it might be easy to laugh off that comparison as hyperbolic beyond belief - but for the people being forced out of their homes, those who haven't left but are living in fear, and the farmers who are seeing their livelihoods washed away, that is how it feels.

During the 2009 floods, a politician who prides himself on being 'a man of the people' said: "We do need, now more than ever, to offer these people some sense that Government do understand what they are facing into in the last few weeks of this year."

That man was Enda Kenny criticising Brian Cowen.

Six years later, the welly is firmly on the other foot - or not, as the case may be.

It's more than six weeks now since the winter storms began sweeping in off the Atlantic and people are becoming frustrated.

They need somebody to blame and 'Mother Nature' isn't a practical option. So by failing to show that he understands their plight, Mr Kenny has placed himself firmly in the firing line.

Over his time as Taoiseach, on the big occasions Mr Kenny has proven himself to understand the mood of the people. His 2013 apology to the Magdalene women is one that will be recorded in the history books.

But for some reason he is arguing that this time he can do it all from behind the scenes.

He seems to think that action is what is needed, not David Cameron-style photocalls in £13 wellies from Lidl.

Action is needed, but people are grieving - and unless you see the devastation it is hard to comprehend. It is difficult to genuinely say you understand.

This is about national solidarity as well as relief funds and promises of future flood defences.

We're told Mr Kenny has visited flood-stricken parts of his native Mayo - but that's not enough.

His people are waiting to tell him their stories. What is he waiting for?


Irish Independent

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