Election De Facto
One of the main differences between Enda Kenny and the other main party leaders is his temperament. Over the past few weeks one could not help but notice that while Mícheál Martin snarled his way through debates and Éamon Gilmore growled at every opportunity, Enda Kenny remained calm. He was always respectful in debates and discussions – a rare quality in a politician. It is more like a grace in a politician of such long standing, especially with Enda Kenny being the ‘father of the house.’
That respect was so obvious in Castlebar during the election count on Saturday last. He was flanked by his victorious team of Michael Ring, Michelle Mulherin and John O’Mahony. He was slow to take centre-stage, ensuring at all times that his team was with him. He had the simple decency to meet people who worked on the count – those who worked officially and those who worked voluntarily on behalf of the parties. He crossed political divides to express thanks – a simple yet meaningful gesture. It must also be noted that Fintan Murphy and his team were hard and diligent workers who ensured that the count went smoothly.
Enda Kenny is an Islandeady man (The Castlebar boys will not be allowed to claim him!). He has travelled a hard road, especially over the past yen years or so as leader of Fine Gael. His triumphant entry into the counting centre last Saturday was expected at 4pm. At two minutes past four the shouts went up and the crowd turned to see a body raised shoulder-high entering the hall.
It was Michael Ring, the only man who can upstage an incoming-Taoiseach and get away with it. The ‘no seat is safe’ man got it wrong again! His seat was as assured as his own dedication to hard work, the reason he keeps getting elected. Yet no words can ease the angst of Ringo ahead of an election! Michelle Mulherin did extremely well. She deserves her seat, because she worked hard in securing it and is a capable politician. Ballina can now dance a double-jig, having Michelle and Dara Calleary elected.
John O’Mahony also did exceptionally well. Having given up the ‘GAA whip’ as Mayo football manager it made his campaign more difficult. Followers of football can be a disparate lot! John ran the risk of being cast aside by some so-called football fans. While it appeared that he had east Mayo to himself he still had a hard graft. He came through and ensured the county is steeped in blue.
Michael Kilcoyne needed another 1,500 or so first preferences to stay in the race. His first outing, without the support of a party structure, was admirable. Lisa Chambers did very well for Fianna Fail in her first showing and her transfers heaved Dara Calleary onto his seat. Jerry Cowley held his Independent votes this time out. The Labour relationship for Jerry Cowley still raises questions.
Sinn Féin polled well with almost 7,000 votes between Rose Conway-Walsh and Thérèse Ruane. With the changing spectrum of Irish politics a seat might not be too far off for the party. The Green Party and Independent candidates suffered in Mayo, mainly because of the Fine Gael blue tide. They totalled 1705 votes – Martin Daly (926), John Carey GP (282), Loretta Clarke (228), Dermot McDonnell (238) and Seán Forkin (31).
The real talking will now start for Enda Kenny. Who will be the partners in coalition? While the foregone conclusion points to Labour there are still many people who would wish to see Enda secure a deal with a group of Independents. The thinking of Shane Ross, Mick Wallace and Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan would do wonders for Fine Gael.
While Enda has changed the face of Irish politics it is too much to expect him to talk to Sinn Féin. More is the pity. Sinn Féin has a very strong Dáil team. The party can make inordinate claims about its strategy to right the wrongs the bankers et al have inflicted on the country but they must be reminded that they backed the bank bail-out initially! Granted, they have moved on from that and have some seriously sane policies on dealing with the current EU/IMF mess. A Fine Gael/Sinn Féin alliance would put civil war politics to bed in this country in one swoop. The major political parties emanated from Sinn Féin initially.
Enda and his team will be in deep negotiation over the next week or so. We can only wish and hope for the best. His hard work has yielded rich dividends to date. His ‘honeymoon’ period will be short with a Dublin based media frothing at the mouth to tear him to pieces. Since his election in 1975 they can find nothing on him.
Enda’s promise to renegotiate the deeply dissatisfying deal with the EU and IMF will be welcomed. He is a Europhile and has great contacts within the bowels of decision-making in Brussels and Frankfurt. While many of us abhor the level of European decisions that affects us Enda is best placed to ensure that Irish citizens are treated fairly. At present, the current deal is not only unfair, it is bordering on criminal. Sometimes we can forget that criminality can also be dressed in a pinstriped suit and sitting in a plush office in Berlin or New York.
Tough decisions will have to be made and the face of Enda Kenny will soon become synonymous with that. There is no doubt that Fianna Fáil (many gone, more to go!) TDs will give him a hard time. He will also be kept on a leash by strong Independents, Sinn Féin, People Before Profit Alliance and the Socialist Party. Enda’s real gift is transparency. If he can keep the public informed on progress and the process of straightening out the economy he will do everyone a good service. The ongoing denials of the impending arrival of the IMFers by Brian Cowen and his colleagues were an exercise in stupidity and crass disrespect. Enda’s honesty and respect for people will go a long way towards ensuring that he enjoys as much popular support as people can muster.
Enda has described the election as a ‘democratic revolution.’ It is that and is up to him to ensure that it stays democratic. He is capable of that if he carries out what he has been saying of late, including that his party will protect the family and will care for the elderly. He will need to be strong against the demands of Labour.
His rise to power was not quick and easy but slow and painful. He deserves his day in the sun. When he becomes Taoiseach next week on March 9 it will be a wonderful and emotional day. No one can begrudge him such an honour. Such days are defined by those present and by those not present.
A few lively spirits of family and friends will hover blessings over him on that day. His father Henry and loyal friend Liam Coady come to mind. “A faithful friend is a sure shelter, whoever finds one has found a rare treasure,” Sir. 6:14.