Saturday 24 February 2018

Dancing Enda in no rush for music to stop as he brushes all his troubles to one side

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with some of the entrants in the Most Stylish Lady competition at Fairyhouse yesterday. Photo: Andres Poveda
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with some of the entrants in the Most Stylish Lady competition at Fairyhouse yesterday. Photo: Andres Poveda
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Enda Kenny looked more like a man running for election than an early shower. As he brush danced around Cruinniú na Cásca yesterday in a pair of Nike runners and stonewashed jeans with the bottoms turned up, the Taoiseach looked like a man without a worry in the world.

Countless babies were kissed, there was a fist-bump for every young lad in the audience and no end of photographs with colourful performers.

Mr Kenny was certainly enjoying his bank holiday much more than his would-be successors who had hoped he'd have exited stage left by now.

On Sunday, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney were at the GPO to watch a statesmanlike Mr Kenny engage in the pomp and ceremony that has now become tradition when marking the Easter Rising.

Both pretended they were happy to let the Taoiseach decide his own timeline for stepping down, although the Housing Minister said he expected this to be clear before the summer.

What he probably didn't know is that Mr Kenny is planning a trip to Canada in May, where there's likely to be a photo opportunity with the uber-cool Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The real Brexit negotiations are likely to kick off in June and by then we'll already be talking about the Budget.

Those events, combined with a decision to hold Fine Gael's annual conference in Cavan on November 10/11, has led to speculation the Taoiseach is set to cling to power until then.

Almost inexplicably, Mr Kenny has managed to dampen down the mood for a leadership challenge at a time of perpetual crisis for his government. And he knows it.

On Thursday, he will surpass John A Costello as the longest-serving Fine Gael Taoiseach in history.

Four days later, he will reach another milestone, turning 66 years old.

In the face of the criticism and abuse he has absorbed in recent times, a normal person would probably say that's enough.

But watching Mr Kenny partake in the Easter festivities, it's clear that he still enjoys both the formal and informal sides of the job.

And while followers of the social media bandwagon might think he made an eejit of himself yesterday, those present were enchanted by the laid-back nature of his performance.

It is nice to think we still live in a country where it's possible for the prime minister to casually rock up at a public céilí, have a good dance and go back about his business. Would Varadkar or Coveney have the patience for all the photographs?

Of course, there is serious work to be done too but it's not exactly like Leinster House is stretching itself. Brexit is the burning issue, yet it's accepted in political circles that Mr Kenny has managed to make that his niche.

And so for every reason that people in Fine Gael have for suggesting he should leave, the Taoiseach has devised two reasons for why he should stay a little longer.

In the meantime, the faux contest between Mr Varadkar and Mr Coveney is progressing in the background. Both men are trying to line up supporters but are nervous about seeming too eager. Over the weekend Mr Coveney denied reports he offered Michael Noonan extra time in Finance if he publicly backed his bid.

"That story came out of the blue, certainly for me, that's for sure," he said.

On the other side, Mr Varadkar was planting a seed for Paschal Donohoe by suggesting he would merge the Department of Public Expenditure back into Finance. Mr Donohoe would be the obvious choice for the big job but a vote would be required as payback.

The Social Protection Minister admitted he has been doing some "deep thinking" to come up with ideas for the party and the country, but added: "I think it'd be premature to release any of the details of those yet."

Time and tide wait for no man - except Enda, it seems.

Irish Independent

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