Enda lays down law with irate garda on final push in Meath
THE Taoiseach was striding around SuperValu in Ratoath when he suddenly found himself at the business end of the long arm of the law.
The visibly angry garda got stuck into Enda. He felt that his Government was "singling out" shift workers.
"Now I'm entitled, as far as I'm concerned, for unsocial hours allowance because they are unsocial hours," said Garda Frank Greene, who is based at Dublin Airport.
He echoed the lamentation that has become the mantra of a citizenry thoroughly sickened after five years of an economic diet of thin gruel.
"I didn't cause this economy to collapse, yet I feel that I'm being singled out," he told the Taoiseach.
Enda stood his ground and quietly put forward the government case – nobody is being singled out, everyone has been hit, doing nothing is not an option.
"You're a guard, which is a very important job. You're an intelligent man. But what do you think is going to pay for the services that you need?" he asked the irate man.
By the end, a truce had been reached. "It's lovely to meet you, Taoiseach. We'll agree to differ," said Gda Greene as he shook Enda's hand.
It's a different highway that the Taoiseach finds himself on, over two years after the general election.
February 2011 was the halcyon days, when Enda skipped merrily down the yellow-brick road to a predictable victory, dancing over the dazed soldiers of a fallen Fianna Fail and sprinkling promises over the electorate like confetti. But now, he and his troops are doing the hard yards in the first real test of their standing among an increasingly exhausted electorate.
The Taoiseach was spending the afternoon on a whistle-stop tour of several towns in Meath East, in a final push to secure the seat for Helen McEntee in the by-election precipitated by the tragic death of her father Shane.
And given the closeness of the race, a large phalanx of Fine Gael troops had been mustered for this swing through the constituency.
However, even though he was surrounded by supporters, the overall impression surely garnered by Enda must have been that the voters are exhausted. They're either looking for jobs or fighting to keep the jobs they have.
In Dunboyne, he stopped to speak to a group of women in a cafe. "What are ye talking about?" enquired Enda chattily. "We're talking about our pay and how difficult it is," came the prompt reply from Bridget Cash, who works in a residential care unit.
Bridget had just finished a 24-hour shift – necessary to make ends meet. Her husband (a guard) was also working extra hours.
There were also some friendly faces and votes in the bag along the trail, with voters warmly supportive of the McEntee name.
And Helen may have bagged another vote in the shape of Kelly Petit. She bumped into the Taoiseach and Helen outside the Bank of Ireland in Ashbourne. Kelly, who works for the ISPCC, explained she was on the way into the bank to apply for a mortgage.
"I'll go with you," offered Enda. And so he barrelled into the bank with a delighted Kelly. "Look after this woman," he told the bemused banking official.
The bank staff didn't look one bit entertained by this intervention. But then Michael Noonan does hold 15pc of shares in the place on our behalf, so surely this gives the Taoiseach some class of financial droit de seigneur over the staff.
Pity, though, that he wouldn't take such similar liberties with the obscene salary of the bank's boss, Richie Rich Boucher.
The hard yards mightn't be quite so tough for Fine Gael if he did.