Friday 27 April 2018

No Áras race for Enda as he runs around Kilkenny

Councillor David Fitzgerald with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Johnny Barry, a broadcaster with
KCLR, looking at Johnny’s music collection in his home in Kilkenny. Photo: Damien Eagers
Councillor David Fitzgerald with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Johnny Barry, a broadcaster with KCLR, looking at Johnny’s music collection in his home in Kilkenny. Photo: Damien Eagers
Lise Hand

Lise Hand

The Taoiseach's been saying "Yes" a lot recently in the name of marriage equality, then suddenly on Pat Kenny's show yesterday morning, he not only said "No", but "Absolutely Not".

Pat had asked him if he would consider a tilt at the presidency, and instead of leaving the door swinging coyly ajar as he's done in the past, Enda slammed it shut.

Later in the day, while canvassing in Kilkenny with Fine Gael's by-election candidate David Fitzgerald, one man greeted the Taoiseach with a handshake. "I nearly called you Mister President," he told Enda.

But he hadn't experienced a Road to Damascus conversion on the road to the Marble City.

The answer was still a resounding "No".

"I've given 40 years to politics and there are some things I want to do when I leave. So I want to win the next election, serve a full term and then say 'the country's now in good shape', and hand it onto the next generation," he said.

"For me, Áras an Uachtaráin is a place to visit, but not to stay."

Well, that's that, it seems. But what isn't so clear-cut is the date of that next election. Enda was getting in a bit of practice in Kilkenny, knocking on doors of houses around Dominic Street, close to the city centre, rather than pounding the shopping areas, and he was bustling at his usual high speed up and down garden paths. "It's training for the election in the dark days of February," he blithely remarked, then grinned as those around him fell off the path in shock.

"Or the end of March or April," he added cheekily, as he messed about with a hurley and sliotar.

He was in a cheerful mood. His party's candidate, former Kilkenny mayor and current councillor, is in the hunt to take Phil Hogan's seat in what will most likely be a close dogfight with Fianna Fáil's Bobby Aylward, with Sinn Féin's Kathleen Funchion flourishing in the Carlow end.

Although many of the houses along busy Stephen Street were empty - "they're at the shops" one of the canvassers surmised - the Taoiseach and David found a positive response when doors were opened. David introduced him to Johnny Barry, who does a late-night music show on KCLR. "Johnny puts the women of Kilkenny to bed," joked David.

Immediately, Johnny invited them inside to inspect his enormous collection of CDs.

Enda began rummaging. "Here's a good one for politicians," he announced, holding up one titled 'Waltzing on Borrowed Time'. Then he found another. "And here's one for the referendum, 'The Irish Wedding Songs album'".

Inevitably, the Taoiseach was doing a spot of double-jobbing on the canvass, promoting both David and a 'Yes' vote.

One woman admitted she didn't realise a by-election was included in next week's poll. "There'll be three ballot papers," Enda explained, "one for the presidential candidate age, one for the by-election where we hope you'll vote for our candidate, and a third for the Marriage Equality Referendum, where we hope you'll vote 'Yes'."

At one house, local businesswoman Jennifer Quinn told the pair that her family were "big Fianna Fáil people, but we're going to give you our vote, because I don't think you're doing a bad job," she told them.

At another house, the Taoiseach was subjected to a bit of a slagging from engineer Jack Foley and his son Michael, who is a special needs teacher in a local school. Michael explained how the school urgently required funding for renovations.

But his dad had a question of his own. "When are you going on Vincent Browne?" he asked Enda, who looked startled at the curveball.

David promptly came to the rescue. "I'm on the show tonight, so you can tune in," he told Jack.

Of course, it wasn't all plain sailing - as the canvass finished, two women with hastily scrawled signs ran towards him. "You've some cheek. Toddle along Enda. You're brainwashing our children," they shouted for a couple of minutes.

The Taoiseach strolled on. Was he ruffled?

No ... Absolutely Not.

Irish Independent

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