Sunday 19 January 2020

Lise Hand: Ad break gives Enda chance to embark on character building

Lise Hand

DAY Three of the George Lee soap-opera and the plotters thickened. On Day One, George was the good guy and the Fine Gael frontbench were the villains of the story.

Then the next day, both Enda Kenny and Richard Bruton launched counter-offensives.

By yesterday, there were all sorts of knife-fights breaking out between the departed deputy and various Blueshirt buckaroos. But the leading man in the melodrama continues to be Enda.

On Tuesday, when George referred to "loud mutterings" about his position as party top dog, Enda promptly donned a suit of pinstriped sackcloth and ashes and did the media Stations of the Cross.

In various interviews, he declared that from henceforth he would "be himself".

On RTE's 'Six-One News' that evening, he explained to a quizzical Bryan Dobson: "Sometimes people say to me, 'When I meet you one-to-one, I don't get the same impression from television', so maybe I should loosen up a bit more, that's all."

And Enda's self-assessment was spot-on. He is at his most relaxed and communicative when he's out and about on some campaign trail, chewing the fat with locals and doing unscripted soapbox speeches.

But put a camera or a microphone in front of him, and all animation is lost in a sudden wave of self-consciousness.

The more that Enda tries to sound like a Taoiseach, the further he moves away from ever becoming one.

So there was a certain anticipation surrounding yesterday morning's session of Leaders' Questions.

Would the Fine Gael leader burst into the chamber like Rocky Balboa or would the Taoiseach have him on the ropes before the end of Round One? Enda took his usual seat beside Racy Richard, facing a sombre Brian Cowen across the ring.

But it wasn't going to be a day for grandstanding or shadow-boxing or Rocky Kenny pluckily declaring: "It ain't how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward."

The subject of the question time was just too depressing for any triumphant unveiling of The Real Enda. Not with 760 jobs gone up in smoke with the retreat of Bank of Scotland from its Irish Halifax operation.

"Based on allegations now in circulation, has the Taoiseach had any indications that there might be thousands of additional bank job losses because of other international banks pulling out of this country?" demanded Enda, who in fairness has recently been making an effort to keep his questions shorter and to the point.

All too often, his rambling multiple questions have only served to aid and abet the Taoiseach in avoiding a straight answer.

And Brian was deploying his full range of evasive manoeuvres. Enda received no straight reply, and had to hand the baton over to Eamon Gilmore, who took it smoothly and kept running.

"I shall pursue the matter of the 760 people who are to lose their jobs," announced the Labour leader, who had a series of questions on the bank, which he described as having "a buccaneer approach to lending".

But what Eamon was most eager to discover was when exactly the Taoiseach found out that Halifax were planning to sling their hook?

"Will the Taoiseach tell the House when the Government found out about the bank's intentions?" he demanded.

But once again the Taoiseach wriggled around the question. His understanding was that they had found out the day before when the bank sent out its Dear John in the form of a redundancy notification for the 760 workers.

"We are assured that all customers will be looked after and will not be disadvantaged by the changes," he muttered.

Heigh-ho. There may not have been much of a sighting of The Real Enda -- but there sure as heck was no indication that A Brave New Biffo is on the way either.

And heaven knows that the Fine Gael leader isn't the only one in need of an overhaul. If Enda can be windy, then Brian can be windier still.

Nor is the Taoiseach exactly the picture of animated clarity when a microphone is lurking.

After all, this is a chap who in the space of the past week used words such as "counterfactual", "operationalise" and "resoluble" in his public utterances.

Anyhow, Enda may have caught himself a break in which to find his inner Obama, as the likes of Leo Varadkar, Brian Hayes and George Lee have grabbed the spotlight by falling upon each other like rabid dogs.

But it's only an ad break.

This soap is set to run a while longer.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss