Kenny in full election mode for selection - but still no vote date
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, the Taoiseach was selected last night at his party's Mayo convention to contest the next general election alongside Minister Michael Ring and TD Michelle Mulherin.
Around 300 delegates turned up for the convention at the McWilliam Park Hotel in Claremorris, despite the fact that no vote was held. It was one of the least controversial - and least suspenseful - selection conventions to be held in the run-up to the forthcoming general election, given that the fourth sitting TD John O'Mahony's move from Mayo to the new Galway West constituency was already sorted.
And so unsurprisingly the Taoiseach wasn't exactly exuding nerves when he arrived at the hotel last night.
"We expect to rise to the challenge of being able to elect three TDs out of four. This is a Herculean task," he added, for fear anyone thought it would be as easy as, say, Ireland beating Argentina.
And the town of Claremorris was neutral territory - one suspects that neither Castlebar man Enda Kenny nor Westport's Michael Ring, both notoriously territorial - would've been happy in having to venture into each other's patch. Nor would they be likely to cede home advantage to Ballina-based Michelle Mulherin.
However, although last night marked the end of Fine Gael's conventions, the party is still short of meeting the required 30pc gender quota, with women making up only 26pc of its 80 candidates selected to date.
And so party HQ is now faced with the task of adding up to eight female candidates to tickets around the country, but the Taoiseach was cagey about who was going to find themselves with an extra running-mate.
"Obviously the executive council of Fine Gael look at all the constituencies when the conventions are over and decide in the best interests of seats and vote management what might be appropriate in terms of additions to any individual constituencies," he dodged.
He also reiterated that the election would take place in "early Spring" of 2016, but would not be drawn on any possible date. "Those who know me well can watch for little signs," he added.
The convention was full of cheer, with each of the trio nominated and seconded by Fine Gael friends and colleagues. To laughter, Westport councillor Teresa McGuire described Ringer as "the Duracell bunny, he just keeps going - there isn't a body from North Mayo to Ballinrobe who doesn't know him and doesn't have his number".
Enda took to the stage and thanked the speakers. "I thought they were mighty," he said. "This is a team, this has got to be a team. There's no victory in electing one, or electing two. Electing Mulherin, Ring, Kenny, that's your All Ireland," he told the members.
Poor Michael Ring had a chest infection, but it didn't manage to soften his cough. "Fianna Fáil and the Green Party handed us back to the Germans, the Brits and the rest of them, and the Troika had to run the country," he thundered a bit hoarsely.
He warned of the dire consequences of electing Micheál Martin and Gerry Adams to coalition government.
"If that happens, I'm going to leave the country and I'm going to be a tourist myself," he vowed with gusto to cheers.
The Taoiseach may not have called the election, but that didn't stop him fitting in all types of voters in a whistle-stop tour of his home county yesterday, meeting with everyone from savvy teens and ethnic minorities to farmers and butter churners. He started his day with the Mayo Comhairle na nÓg youth council AGM in Castlebar, addressing 300 teenagers with a speech covering everything from cyber-bullying to drones to 120-year-old rappers.
Asking them what they wanted to do when they grew up, he described the jobs and opportunities as endless. But he also raised the spectre of a more dangerous world facing the students.
"So where do you want to be in the next 10 years, 20 years?" he asked. "Well I'm sure you don't want to be a drug addict, you don't want to be a murderer, you don't want to be a rapist, you don't want to be a prisoner. You want to do something in your life that is going to be relevant to you, your ambitions and your careers and what it is you want to do.
"And some of you are going to have challenges along the way as anybody does. That's why Comhairle na nÓg is so important, people shouldn't be afraid to speak out about the little things that affect them," he added.
Later he visited a more traditional support base, meeting local farmers as he opened the extension to the Teagasc Centre in Ballinrobe where he took the opportunity to laud the recent Budget measures for young farmers, before getting stuck into a demonstration of traditional Irish crafts.
Patricia Kirwan Doyle from the Connemara Heritage Network showed an eager Enda how to spin wool on a great wheel, (spinning being a useful art).
Carmel Kelly, who was busy churning butter, later presented him with the finished product.
"I'll put that on my brown bread this evening," he declared.
Then the tireless Taoiseach dropped into one of the most multicultural schools in the country; Ballyhaunis Community School has children from 28 different nationalities.
Hope he managed to get a few fortifying slices of buttered brown bread into himself somewhere along the Mayo way.