Sunday 22 April 2018

No whingers in Waterford but Taoiseach meets protesters on whirlwind trip around the Déise

Anti-water charges protesters try to block Enda Kenny’s car as he leaves Eishtec. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Anti-water charges protesters try to block Enda Kenny’s car as he leaves Eishtec. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Cormac McQuinn in Waterford

'Whingers?" the Taoiseach was asked.

"Do you expect to find many whingers in Waterford today?" asked WLR FM's Billy McCarthy.

"No, none," Enda Kenny replied, adding that he wasn't referring to the public in the remarks, rather rival politicians.

So who did he meet on his whirlwind visit to the Deise?

First up were anti-water charge protesters, who greeted him outside his engagement at major local employer Eishtec, where Fine Gael was announcing the party's plan to grow jobs in the regions.

There were chants of "Kenny, Kenny, Kenny, out, out, out", and scuffles as gardaí shepherded Mr Kenny's car though the dozen or so protesters.

"Enda Kenny in his ivory tower, this is called people power," they yelled - small band though they were.

Next up was the Ardkeen Shopping Centre for some of the campaigning that Mr Kenny excels at.

He marched around the shops, shaking hands in a cafe, the pharmacy, the cheesemonger's and introducing candidates Paudie Coffey and John Deasy.

"Hello. Do you know Paudie and John?" he asked over and over.

Mr Deasy has been a vocal critic of Mr Kenny's over the years.

But the Taoiseach insisted that he was equally supportive of both candidates. "They're their own men. They stand for Fine Gael... They stand for Waterford. They stand for keeping this recovery going," Mr Kenny said.

He met no whingers at the shopping centre. There were members of the public who raised matters of concern and he listened intently to those who approached him in Waterford.

Mary Coughlan and Willie Doyle are campaigning for a 24/7 cardiac unit for the local hospital. At present, it closes at 5pm Monday to Friday.

Willie told Mr Kenny how his daughter suffered a heart attack in 2014 and was treated shortly before the unit closed for the evening.

"You can't pick the time of day when you're going to have a heart attack," he told Mr Kenny, adding that she wouldn't have made it had it happened a half-an-hour later.

Mr Kenny acknowledged the importance of the issue and told them how a review of cardiac services is being carried out by health authorities. "I'd be delighted to talk to you any time. Let's wait until their review is finished," he said.

"I'm pleased that his response is positive," Willie said after Mr Kenny had moved on.

Christina Donnelly, whose son Brendan was killed by a drunk driver in 2009, has been campaigning for tougher sentencing in such cases. She thanked Mr Kenny for a recent meeting about her 'Brendan's Law' proposals and said "I'll hopefully meet you again and we'll take it from there." "Please God," Mr Kenny replied.

Michael Daniels told how he lost his business in the crash.

"We were destroyed and the government never stood up for us... The big guys got away with murder. We were destroyed," he added.

"I understand. Well you got that off your chest," Mr Kenny said.

"I'm glad you stopped. You have a bit of courage stopping and talking. Thank you," Michael replied. "I appreciate that... All the best," Mr Kenny said.

Come time to leave, an even smaller group of protesters had assembled at the shopping centre.

Mr Kenny got into his car and was off.

Three days to go.

Irish Independent

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