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The Great Escape -- how Kenny headed off a heave

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Enda Kenny with chief whip Paul Kehoe outside the Dail after defeating
the leadership challenge.

Enda Kenny with chief whip Paul Kehoe outside the Dail after defeating the leadership challenge.

Richard Bruton.

Richard Bruton.

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Enda Kenny with chief whip Paul Kehoe outside the Dail after defeating the leadership challenge.

The victor and the vanquished: Enda Kenny with chief whip Paul Kehoe outside the Dail after defeating the leadership challenge led by Richard Bruton, below Photos: David ConachyRTE news cut into the afternoon television schedule to carry live coverage of Enda Kenny standing on the plinth at Leinster House. It was after 5pm on Thursday, June 17, 2010.

Appropriately enough, the interrupted programme was an episode in the series called The Great Escape -- and Enda Kenny had just beaten a heave against his party leadership driven by a huge majority of his key lieutenants and fronted by his deputy leader, Richard Bruton.

It was less than eight months before the general election that would take him to Government Buildings as Taoiseach at a time of the biggest economic crisis in Ireland's history.

Yet 11 of the 19-strong frontbench, whom he had chosen himself, had publicly told him he would not get to be Taoiseach.

Kenny fought an admirable rearguard action, routing the conspirators in a counter-move 'from the outside in'.

As his own top brass turned on him, he successfully appealed to backbench Fine Gael TDs, to his Euro MEPs, and even to the senators whose jobs he had, without any prior consultation, pledged the previous year to abolish.

Enda Kenny took great strength and kudos from the events of the days June 14 to 17 in 2010.

He showed a cool head, courage and considerable strategic judgment, qualities few people realised he had, and left his rivals in the halfpenny place.

And, like Cosgrave and Bruton, he went on to become Taoiseach within the following 12 months.

But this heave against Enda Kenny by his own people also pointed to those doubts about ability and commitment which had followed him, through successes and reverses, over the previous 34 years in politics.

It also destroyed the carefully cultivated image of Kenny as 'manager of a talented team', since those team members had turned on him.

Irish Independent