Saturday 21 September 2019

Nicola Anderson: Enda’s bunker is big on intrigue but it lacks something of the feminine touch

Taoiseach channels Churchill with underground HQ, writes Nicola Anderson

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Elaine Murtagh at Shay Murtagh Precast concrete in Ratharney, Co Westmeath. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Elaine Murtagh at Shay Murtagh Precast concrete in Ratharney, Co Westmeath. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

A bona fide normal business. All youthful life, smiles and froth on the surface, an old-fashioned phone box in the corner.

Below, a dimly lit war cabinet operating in secret from an old cellar. Grim-faced generals with glittering eyes announcing their campaign.

All that was missing were the maps on the wall showing the tanks and submarines in operation and a fluffy white cat for stroking purposes - but it was so dark they, too, may have been there.

Is there something the Taoiseach isn't telling us? Has he turned to Winston Churchill's World War Two strategy by locating his command control centre in the bowels of the earth?

There is a more than a touch of paranoia about the dingy Fine Gael election headquarters in the CHQ building in the Dublin Docklands. Could it be that this is the actual 'fiscal space' - aka Enda's Black Hole? Put a foot wrong and you'll end up spiralling into an endless vortex. They're sharing the space with Dogpatch Labs - an 'incubator space' for tech startups. Not that Fine Gael can put themselves in that category. The property was chosen out of a number of offices - which presumably did have windows - as a way of 'telling the tale' of what has happened to the economy.

"It's part of our basic narrative that it's all about the jobs recovery," explained a Fine Gael press officer.

It's certainly a talking point, and the blueshirts have no shortage of money either, by the looks of it. Though the trendy dazzling blue LED lighting was trying on the eyes during the press conference to unveil their 'Long Term Economy Plan.'

The light did nothing for their complexions either.

And at least Churchill had plenty of women working away, cracking codes in Bletchley Park. Where were the women of Fine Gael? There were certainly none of them in Enda's bunker, with no gender quotas to sully those manly chambers.

It was overwhelmingly, oppressively male down there as Richard Bruton, the Taoiseach, Michael Noonan and Simon Harris lined up like a very niche boyband on the stage to talk money and jobs and recoveries that shouldn't be put at risk and other parties that might bring it to a shuddering halt.

Though they seem to have changed their tune a little by acknowledging, at last, that "the people have brought Ireland back to recovery". Which was nice of them.

And then it was onto the bus for the first of the leaders tours - with a visit to the Shay Murtagh family-owned pre-cast concrete factory in Raharney in Meath West. They make bridges and tunnels, mostly for export - and also lots of stuff for the Corrib Gas project.

"We build it here and then ship it over and put it in place - it's like Lego," explained Ciaran Murtagh, the MD.

Everyone had gathered to hear the Taoiseach speak but there was a bit of a problem with the sound system. It sounded a little gravelly. "Is there a bit of concrete in the..?" enquired Enda.

He was asked why he hadn't turned up for an RTÉ interview the previous night. "I didn't know I was invited to it," he said. "I didn't have access to all the diaries."

Meanwhile, someone in the subterranean war cabinet suddenly turned pale.

It was onwards to Mullingar - where the recession is clearly over. Huge magnums of Moet champagne stood in the window of Ulysses pub.

At PW Shaws hardware store, he chatted with Frank and Patrick Shaw - whose grandfather was a Fine Gael TD from 1923 to 1932.

At the chemist, Niall Weir told him more jobs would have to go to Mullingar.

A tiny child in a buggy took fright and roared crying when she saw the crowd.

Overall, it was not a good day for kissing babies. Another child turned her head away when Enda tried to make friends.

It was a proper crush at election candidate Peter Burke's office - the paint still wet on the walls. Burke hopes to be Mullingar's first TD since the 1990s.

"You're fantastic. You're very photogenic," gushed one woman to Burke.

"I'm going to shake his hand," said another woman with great determination making a beeline for Enda.

And there was time for a short speech - and a warning for the electorate.

"February 26th . . . it's the people's day, the people's choice, the people's decision - but there are consequences for every decision," Enda muttered darkly.

"A garda escort - you don't see that very often," marvelled a party supporter as he left, en route to Naas.

"A Ford Escort is all I ever got from them," snorted a fellow grasssroots member.

Irish Independent

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