Thursday 26 April 2018

No mellow autumn for Kenny as the Fennelly Report unleashes all hell

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is welcomed by French President Francois Hollande for a meeting at the Élysée Palace in Paris yesterday Photo: AP
Taoiseach Enda Kenny is welcomed by French President Francois Hollande for a meeting at the Élysée Palace in Paris yesterday Photo: AP
Lise Hand

Lise Hand

So much for easing back into September - the political season of mist and mellow fretfulness - with a couple of quiet weeks to get all one's political ducks in a row, to notch up a few gigs overseas, hobnobbing with other EU leaders while promoting tourism and trade, and also leisurely penning an upbeat speech for the annual think-in before the Dáil term starts.

No such luck for the Taoiseach this autumn, given that the month opened with the unleashing of the mighty Fennelly Report. Predictably, all holy hell broke loose, with all sorts of interested parties busily decoding its findings, and the opposition tripping over themselves to hurl down motions of no-confidence. Fianna Fáil put down such a motion, expressing no confidence in the Taoiseach, and then along came Sinn Féin and saw their Taoiseach and raised it one attorney general.

The furore continued to bubble over yesterday, even though Enda had removed himself from the fracas and travelled to Paris for his first bilateral meeting with President Francois Hollande since way back in October 2012 when the issue of a bank recapitalisation deal for Ireland was all the rage (that worked out well, didn't it?).

When asked after the meeting about the slew of no-confidence motions which are in the post, the Taoiseach unleashed a bit of a Gallic shrug. "From an opposition point of view, people always rush to see who will get motions in before the other and there will be individual agendas being pursued there as well, as to see who can gain the most publicity and all of that," he reckoned with an air of slight ennui.

But what about the no-confidence motion in Máire Whelan? If the howls for a scalp grew too noisy, could the AG find herself listening out for a late-night home delivery of her P45?

Enda was eager to pour copious amounts of eau froid over that notion - apart from any other consideration, there is certainly no point in scaring the Labour horses, with an election on the way.

He launched straight into a spirited defence. "I have full and absolute confidence in the attorney general," he declared. "I might say that Máire Whelan works extraordinarily hard on behalf of our country and works extraordinarily lengthy hours. I've worked with her now for the last four- and-a-half years and she's really an absolutely dedicated public servant." Right so.

But domestic matters took a distant second place to the main topic of the hour-long conversation between the two leaders. Afterwards, Enda Kenny and Mr Hollande stood side-by-side in a splendiferous room in the Élysée Palace. Their backdrop was a profusion of gilded pillars, plush red velvet drapes, sparkling chandeliers. High above the cornices behind them, merry plaster cherubs gambolled.

The little chubby figures twinkling down at the two leaders couldn't have been a more stark contrast to the broken cherub found lifeless on the sort of beautiful beach where children come to play and not to die.

And it was that sad, small cherub, three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who cast a long, dark shadow over the Taoiseach and the president of France as they spoke after their hour-long bilateral meeting in Paris yesterday afternoon. Usually, the post-powwow press statements from such encounters are awash with mutual congratulations and praise, plus positive pronouncements regarding trade and the economy.

But not this time. Both men were sombre and both spoke of the image which has shaken a society that has become hardened to suffering in far-off places.

The image of the child on the beach "brings a lot of emotions", the president said, adding: "It calls on the European conscience."

Irish Independent

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