On The Edge
ISN’T it amazing how the media moves on so quickly? Already, it is as if Enda Kenny was a figment of our imaginations. A chimera on the back of a tractor outside a windswept church gate on a foggy Sunday in October. A hoarse voice echoing around an empty town hall or drafty community centre. A remnant of old-style politics when chicken dinners were the choice du jour and mohair suits were trending on Kildare Street.
Like him or not, Enda was effectively hounded out of his position as Taoiseach. Rate him or not, the media and its puppeteers played a game of guerrilla warfare, particularly since the results of the last General Election left the (50) Soldiers of Destiny supplicants to their old civil war foes in their bid to form a minority government, propped up by seven Independents and engaged in a ‘Confidence and Supply’ arrangement with the 44 Fianna Fáil deputies.
The ‘Keep the Recovery Going’ slogan had totally backfired. Enda was accused of becoming enslaved to his spin-doctors while increasingly being distrustful of his own party colleagues.
While he had come out the winner of the cappuccino coup of 2010 – whose leaders included the present incumbent, Dr Varadkar and his competitor for the post, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney – there was bound to be residual bruising.
Two years later, in late 2012, the title of John Downing’s book, ‘The Unlikely Taoiseach’ may have appeared anachronistic in the light of Time magazine’s portrayal of Enda on its cover in its October edition. ‘The Celtic Comeback’ article quoted Kenny responding to a question about the fact that there had been no large-scale demonstrations in Ireland against the sustained austerity policies.
“People understand that you have to do difficult things to sort out our own public finances,” he said.
Turned out though that the attempt to introduce water charges – in quick succession to property taxes being implemented – backfired badly. It became the lightning rod for a seething unease, not only among the disenfranchised living on the margins of our society but (way more dangerously) among the ‘squeezed middle’ – those who like to get up early in the morning, as Leo might opine.
Capitalistic carrion birds
IN January 2011, when out on the general election trail, Enda Kenny promised ‘to make Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business by 2016’. For the owners of vulture funds that would prove to be true as they hovered like carrion birds in a desert over property portfolios. It also proved perfect as a tax shelter for such global giants as Google, Facebook, Apple et al.
Even if the so-called Double-Irish loophole has been closed since 2015, the low corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent still means Ireland is a tax haven – and with Brexit on the horizon – a most attractive gateway to the EU.
But, for the ordinary SMEs (small and medium sized businesses) the challenge to claw their way back from the chasmic Celtic Tiger collapse still seems to be a challenging prospect. Especially, for those trading in small town Ireland far beyond the M50. Businesses that were not lucky enough to be located in such tourism honeypots – along the Wild Atlantic Way – as Westport or Dingle, Galway or Donegal – were left with cobwebs on their shelves or worse still their shutters down.
But isn’t it worth remembering that the fall-out from a Fine Gael-led neoliberal laissez-faire attitude to economics continues, even after Enda’s departure? When we vote for this centrist conservative party, are these not policies we support? Whether Leo turns out to be more right-wing than Enda is a moot point.
Whether a grand coalition with Fianna Fáil would ensure a move (slightly) to the left is mere speculation about the most marginal shifts.
The fundamental question here is: should Enda have been harangued by the media for carrying out policies that reflect his party’s position on the political spectrum? And, now that he has briefly reappeared in the headlines because he is about to confirm – what the dogs on the streets have known for months – that he will not contest the next General Election, can we please not indulge in faux praise and posturing about his legacy?
Let’s leave the man alone to write his own story.