Aoife Finneran: The day that the Dubs cuddled up with a culchie

Aoife Finneran

THE bundle of joy in Enda Kenny's arms clearly wasn't paying enough attention.

"It's called the Five Point Plan", cooed the Fine Gael leader as he beamed into the startled eyes of eight-month-old Emma Brady.

The country's would-be leader was pounding the pavements in Crumlin with local candidates Catherine Byrne, Colm Brophy and Ruairi McGinley. Alas, his attempt to communicate the message of Fine Gael's economic recovery policy didn't impress his young audience.

To give recently reinvented Mr Kenny his due, he stopped short of the cheesy baby-kissing routine.

Then again, he'd already done enough of that for one day. Minutes earlier, in the common room of Father Kitt Court, he had puckered up for a kiss on the cheek of a delighted Betty O'Brien who sighed: "Oh that was lovely".

Yes, these were real Dubs in real Dublin and they simply couldn't get enough of the quintessential culchie.

Kenny, looking more statesmanlike than ever in his neat navy suit, started his day on a high note by pledging to abolish the travel tax and promising to pass a Job Creation Bill by July.

And so he was in rare form as he bounded into Dublin South Central and made a beeline for St Agnes' Parish Hall.

Inside, a good-humoured Netta Edgerton eyed Colm Brophy and asked Enda: "Why would I give him a cup of tea?"

Enda gravely responded: "Because he's a decent person."

But he hadn't reckoned on Netta arguing back: "I know I'm a decent person but are politicians decent?"

She went on to explain how she and her husband are struggling to cope with the savage cuts.

"My husband worked for 52 and a half years," she told Enda. "He worked very hard and he ended up with a State pension. We don't smoke, drink or gamble and we've been able to get by just fine. But we're finding it very difficult now with all the extra charges."

"A lot of money has gone into the banks," Enda soothed.

He found less resistance from Christina O'Callaghan, who wished him luck and advised: "I know you're going into a black hole, there's no doubt about that. But let's hope there'll be better integrity among the parties."

Back on the street, it looked as if Fine Gael's plan to abolish compulsory Irish was about to come back to bite it.

Up popped Seamus O'Marcacain: "I think we'll never be a great nation until at least 75pc of people can speak Irish from the heart."

Enda responded fervently, waxing lyrical about passionate teachers and willing students. Seamus was impressed, pumping his hand enthusiastically as he declared: "Please God you're going to be our new Taoiseach."

It was all rather picturesque, the tableau of a soon-to-be-Taoiseach conversing with his adoring public. Yet Enda wasn't to know that just around the corner the spectre of Bobby Channels and 'Councillor' Terry Ghusto loomed large.

However, the two pranksters -- who caused a ruckus at Enda's town hall gathering in Leitrim earlier this month by posing as disgruntled voters -- kept their distance. If only every potential ambush could be so easily avoided.