Sunday 18 August 2019

What's the story with the busy day, Taoiseach?

Minister Heather Humphreys, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Noel Curran, Moya Doherty and Mary Kennedy at the launch
Minister Heather Humphreys, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Noel Curran, Moya Doherty and Mary Kennedy at the launch
Artist Robert Ballagh presents a limited edition of Jim Fitzpatrick’s image of James Connolly to actor Stephen Rea, along with James Connolly Heron, the great- grandson of James Connolly
Glen Killane, managing director of RTÉ Television, vocalist Sibéal Ní Chasaide and Noel Curran, director-general of RTÉ at the unveiling of RTÉ 1916

Lise Hand

Enda was perhaps feeling a little emotionally bruised by the time he arrived at the National Emotional Wellbeing Symposium in CityWest in Tallaght. For he had endured a fairly gruelling session of Leaders' Questions in the Dáil earlier in the day, with the big boys in opposition all ganging up on him.

Gerry Adams and Mick Wallace hauled him over the piping-hot coals over the plight of the homeless and over the fraught matter of providing rent certainty, while Micheál Martin angrily harangued him on the "chaotic" state of the health system, with poor divils already languishing on trolleys and the winter not yet even upon us - including, shockingly, a 29-hour wait on a Tallaght Hospital trolley for a 91-year old with advanced Parkinson's.

The Taoiseach clearly wasn't happy. "I just don't understand how it can be allowed to happen to a 91-year-old," he fretted. "I would like to hear the response from the hospital."

(There was more than an echo of the old Bertie stunt, whereby the former Taoiseach would bemoan how someone-should-do-something-about-that while conveniently forgetting that he himself in fact was the decider-in-chief.)

After getting it in the neck from all quarters, Enda seemed a bit subdued when he spoke at the symposium later in the day. He's been well and truly grilled in recent days about his regular nixer as a seanchaí, such as regaling a rapt audience in Madrid about the army and ATMs.

In his speech to a roomful of school principals and staff, the thorny issue of stories was clearly on his mind. "The author Karen Blixen wrote, 'All sorrows can be borne if you can put them in a story or tell a story about them'," he declared, before quoting psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz. "What if we can't tell a story about our sorrows? What if our sorrows start to tell us?"

It was all quite philosophical from the Taoiseach. Of course he couldn't resist inserting a few sidebar stories of people he had met himself - a grieving father, a depressed teenager, and a former pupil he bumped into in an airport - into his speech, as he advised young people to speak out about their troubles. "Tell your story - what's wrong with it?" he insisted, with a touch of defensiveness.

Then he dropped into an IDA jobs announcement in City Hall, which was attended by a handful of the tech companies taking part in the W*b S****t (don't mention the web-war). Though IDA head Martin Shanahan raised wry smiles all round when he bravely assured the audience, "I've promised the Taoiseach that the IDA is going to stay in Ireland for the next three years..."

Alas, Enda couldn't linger and make small-talk with the young people, as he had to dash off to Fine Gael's weekly parliamentary party meeting and sweet-talk a disgruntled John Perry out of doing anything rash.

As a result of that prolonged talk, he was so late for the launch of RTÉ's 1916 centenary celebration event programme in the National Gallery, that it was almost 2016 by the time he showed up for the official launch of what RTÉ's Director-General Noel Curran hailed as a commemoration of "a year of huge emotional and political significance".

Golly, but there was a lot of emotion knocking about yesterday. However, a chance to take the spotlight on these celebrations never fails to cheer up Enda, and the Taoiseach was back in enthusiastic form when he addressed the packed room. And once again the theme of storytelling took centre-stage. "Through the diverse range of output planned, it is clear that many of Ireland's finest storytellers will play a unique and very valued role in creating a new legacy; a new understanding and a new interrogation of Ireland from the origins of the State, to where we are today."

And in fairness we're not short of storytellers. In fact, he's not so bad at it himself, as we've all discovered.

Perhaps if we're all very lucky, the Taoiseach could be a late addition to RTÉ's impressive programme.

Assuming he is still Taoiseach in 2016, of course.

Irish Independent

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