Thursday 22 February 2018

Flashback 1992: Marriage of Enda Kenny and Fionnuala O'Kelly

This weekend 24 years ago, Fine Gael TD Enda Kenny wed his love Fionnuala O'Kelly - who was working for Fianna Fáil when they met

Power couple: Enda Kenny and his bride Fionnuala O'Kelly in 1992
Power couple: Enda Kenny and his bride Fionnuala O'Kelly in 1992

Ger Siggins

It was the first Haddington Road agreement of Enda Kenny's career, and the one that will definitely last the longest.

He was almost 42 when he took the plunge, admitting he had "been around the field a few times". But on Friday January 3, 1992, Mr Kenny walked down the aisle of St Mary's, Haddington Road in Dublin a married man.

The church itself is mentioned in James Joyce's The Dead, and was also the venue for Patrick Kavanagh's funeral and the wedding of Michael D Higgins and Sabina Coyne.

It was more than a decade since Mr Kenny had been distracted while speaking in the Dáil by a "spectacular beauty" in a blue dress who had just walked into the press gallery to distribute some press releases. "Now this I must see again," he thought to himself.

The object of his attention was Fionnuala O'Kelly, but her job presented a problem for the Fine Gael TD for Mayo West - at that time she was assistant press secretary of Fianna Fáil.

But Mr Kenny is nothing if not persistent and he even gate-crashed a Fianna Fáil Christmas party in his bid to woo Ms O'Kelly.

She eventually relented - "He kind of crept up on me," she once told an interviewer.

For years they maintained a clandestine relationship - with occasional breaks - known only to "a few close friends." So you can understand Mr Kenny's delight as he told the Irish Independent on his wedding day: "At last, I will be proud to take her anywhere with me."

He had proposed on the beach in Inisheer: "I went down on one knee with the Atlantic washing up and surf breaking all around us, and asked her to be my wife," he said. "And then I was down that aisle like the hammers of hell."

Under the headline, "A new coalition is sealed with a kiss", the Irish Independent reported that rather than a politically tense table arrangement the couple opted for a small family wedding.

Those there at the ceremony conducted by Fr Tom Shannon were Mr Kenny's mother Ethna, brothers Kieran, Henry and John, and sister, Maria. His wife's father Seán and siblings Maria, Breda, Brian, Noreen and Michael also attended. Her other sister, Niamh, could not be present as she had given birth to her first child on Christmas Day in Kerry. In a nod to Fionnuala's former employer - and perhaps to Enda's ambitions - the wedding reception has held in the Pembroke Road restaurant Le Coq Hardi, best-known as the haunt of Charlie Haughey.

Ms O'Kelly had been hired by Mr Haughey, who was her local TD, but she had no problem standing up to the Taoiseach. She claims to be "the only person who ever threw a file back at Mr Haughey", as well as securing an apology from him. And while the courting couple had done their best to keep it a secret, little got past the wily Taoiseach.

When she announced she was leaving for RTÉ, he asked her: "Has this anything to do with young Kenny?"

After a honeymoon, "for a few days in Ireland", they were back to work, him in the Dáil where he is now Taoiseach and the longest-serving TD, her in Montrose where she was head of communications.

Aoibhinn, Ferdia and Naoise all arrived over the next four years and she resigned from the broadcaster, and the family home relocated to Mayo.

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