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Andrew Lynch: Enda's resolutions for a happy new year in government


Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Enda Kenny is only human. Like the rest of us, he will spend today taking stock of the year gone by and making plans for the one to come.

Thanks to a shocking lack of discipline throughout 2014, the Taoiseach's political health is lousy - so here are the new year's resolutions that can help him get back in shape.

1. Kill off the water charges rebellion

The closing date for registering with Irish Water is February 2, which means that by then we should have a good idea of how many people will refuse to pay the new charge.

Anything under 20pc would be a decent result for the Coalition, giving them a target to aim at when the first water bills arrive in April. Either way, Kenny (left) must hang tough because any more concessions on this toxic issue will make him look fatally weak.

The last Right2Water protest on December 10 was dominated by Sinn Fein and the hard Left. If the movement shrinks to that level, it should be doomed.

2. Win the same-sex marriage referendum

Enda Kenny has come a long way on the issue of marriage equality, from almost falling into a flowerpot while dodging questions to becoming the first ever Taoiseach in a gay bar.

Now he has a chance to prove his liberal credentials by strongly campaigning for a 'yes' vote in the referendum due to be held next May.

According to the opinion polls, this should be a slam dunk. If it gets closer, however, Kenny will have to come out fighting just as John Bruton did in the 1995 divorce referendum.

A defeat would not just be embarrassing - it would cement this government's reputation as an incompetent.

3. Let people start feeling the recovery

An ESRI report just before Christmas predicted that Ireland will enjoy "spectacular" growth of 5.7pc next year. Even if this turns out to be too optimistic, Michael Noonan should have a few euro to splash out in October's budget.

How can he best use it to convince voters that the recovery is real? The answer is obvious.

Irish taxpayers have a special hatred for the universal social charge and slashing it would be a good day's work, allowing people to start seeing a difference in their payslips.

4. Expose the lack of an alternative government

You can't beat something with nothing. This should be a comforting thought for Enda as the general election approaches.

Bashing Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail for their past sins is fair enough, but in 2015 the Coalition must highlight their lack of convincing plans for the future too.

If a new party emerges, Kenny would be well advised to take the opposite approach and kill it with kindness. Don't be hostile to Shane Ross or Lucinda Creighton, steal their best ideas instead - and be ready to do a deal if you need their support.

5. Surprise us

In his final interview of 2014, the Taoiseach hinted that he might appoint a cabinet split 50-50 between men and women. Maybe he was spouting hot air, but this is the kind of dramatic gesture that would make people sit up and pay attention.

So far, Kenny's government has only been really interesting when things go wrong. That must change if it wants to have any chance of winning a second term.