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The great county v country debate

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 Enda Kenny

The great county v country debate


Enda Kenny is now three years a Taoiseach but has his native Mayo missed out due to his pre-occupation with national economic recovery? Áine Ryan tries to find the answer.

Áine Ryan

IF Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s legacy to his native county of Mayo was measured by the number of blitzes, blue flags, pink days and cock fights he has attended since his appointment three years ago, his biographers would be very busy. Indeed, if his legacy is measured by his work-rate regarding this government’s efforts to save a bankrupt Irish economy from going to the wall, his name will be among the relatively short pantheon of leaders who have stood above the parapet since the foundation of the State 92 years ago.
But should he be loyal to his county before his country? Should he wave the green and red higher than the green, white and gold? And is there a subtle but significant difference between cronyism and loyalty, particularly in constituencies that have more often than not been peripheral to central government decision-making?

Charming chairman
CHAIRMAN Enda Kenny is charming, affable and very approachable. He wears his soubriquet as a man of the people lightly and has, generally, become a master at merging his scripted messages with off-the-cuff commentary that has enhanced his media image. His image is squeaky clean with not a whiff of a skeleton in any of his cupboards or cubby-holes.
Ahead of the recent Fine Gael Ard Fheis, Irish Times journalist Róisín Ingle asked him a  broad range of questions put by all sorts of citizens. (The only prior demand was for a list of the questioners but not the questions.) Among them was one by columnist Frank McNally about the oft-used media moniker  of ‘Lucky General’ regarding the timing of his appointment of Taoiseach, within a general election context.
Kenny responded: “I’m an optimist. You make your own luck in this business. Fate plays its own part… You’ve got to have a sense of conviction, of clarity, courage and consistency… We’re here, we’re three years in, two years left, we’re driving on relentlessly and there will be no let-up until the final whistle blows.”
Last week, as he marked three years in office, he wrote in an Irish Times Opinion column, that Ireland’s successful exit from the Troika’s bailout was ‘not an end in itself’.   
“While we are moving in the right direction, too many of our people have yet to feel the recovery in their own lives and many are still enduring great suffering. The Government has a plan to move to the next phase of jobs and recovery in 2014, which we are calling the ‘year for jobs’,” Mr Kenny wrote last Wednesday.
He continued: “We have seen steady progress, with 61,000 new jobs created in 2013, but we will work relentlessly to increase this so that we can get our people back to work and so the sacrifices they have made are not wasted. Our position within Europe is vital to maintaining stability and to continuing to attract jobs and investment to these shores.”
How many of these jobs will be created in Enda Kenny’s constituency of Mayo? And should a Taoiseach favour his own home-patch when helping to deliver projects? Would this not mean he could be accused of clientelism and cronyism, a practise this government promised to exorcise from Irish politics?

Cronyism or loyalty?
BACK in mid-January, The Sunday Times revealed that Irish Water has set up its western headquarters in a Castlebar building ‘rented from a business part-owned by a Fine Gael councillor and key ally of Enda Kenny without a public tendering process’. The Breaffy Road office is jointly owned by Fine Gael Cllr Cyril Burke, whose brother, Senator Paddy Burke has been in the Upper House since 1993 and is now Cathaoirleach of the Seanad.
Irish Water confirmed the arrangement was a temporary one and the office was chosen because, reportedly,  it had cabling and desks. While Cyril Burke declined to tell The Sunday Times the value of the rent, a local estate agent said a similar space would command a rent of around €25,000 to €30,000 a year. However, Burke did confirm that Malbury, his company, had submitted a tender for the new lease.
There is no evidence or implication that Enda Kenny had anything to do with this valuable arrangement that benefited a friend and a fellow party member. No more than there is any evidence that he attempted to influence the appointment of former Fine Gael senator and party activist, Patrick Durcan, as a District Court Judge.

TDs assess of Enda’s three years


AS Enda Kenny marked three years in office, The Mayo News last week sent questions about his performance to a cross-section of randomly chosen local representatives and TDs.  
Below are the edited answers of those who responded by our deadline.

Q LEAVING PARTY-POLITICAL CONCERNS ASIDE, IF YOU WERE TAOISEACH WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY IN MAYO?

INDEPENDENT Cllr Michael Kilcoyne
A “Lift the embargo on public service recruitment because Castlebar in particular and Ballina to a lesser extent is a large employer of public sector workers  and the embargo is having a detrimental effect on the businesses and services in the town.
I would also make Knock Airport a tax free area, like Lemass did for Shannon , this would create a huge amount of employment through industries locating there. I would ensure the three main towns in the county have purpose-built industrial units and encourage industrialist to see Mayo as a good investment area with a young educated workforce and help stem the flow of emigration.”

FINE GAEL Cllr Peter Flynn
A “The Taoiseach and Government need to prioritise and remove any bureaucratic impediments so that the Greenway is extended from Galway, Clifden and Leenane, Louisburgh, Ballycroy, Belmullet and into Ballina so that we have a product that will attract tourists from all over Europe to the region for extended breaks. The ongoing development of the N5, and the Ballaghaderreen bypass now under construction, is great to see but the section from Strokestown to Frenchpark needs to be tacked immediately. Our key towns in Mayo need to have the same access time to Dublim to remain competitive both nationally and internationally.”

LABOUR Cllr Harry Barrett
A  “I would use the power of my office to end the tide of emigration that has so seriously affected this county for generations.  I would  make Mayo as a model for regional development nationally, and, to this end, I would appoint a Minister for Regional Development to oversee it all.  We need real jobs urgently in Castlebar.”

FIANNA FÁIL Cllr Micheál McNamara
A “I would request that all our enterprise and employment supporting organisations be much more proactive in establishing jobs in the county. I would target supports that maintain and develop the essential services and infrastructure for rural Mayo. But my primary concerns would be JOBS, JOBS, JOBS for the Co Mayo”.

SINN FÉIN Cllr Rose Conway-Walsh  
A “I would not stop until I had at least one new major labour intensive sustainable industry in each of the four Electoral Areas providing a critical mass of permanent full-time jobs for people with a range of skills so Mayo people could have a choice to stay in their own county and have a decent standard of living.”

FIANNA FÁIL Dara Calleary TD
A  “I would put on the Mayo jersey to start with!   The Taoiseach has shown, in my view, a marked reluctance to fight for Mayo in  his three years in office.   I would give IWAK (Ireland West Airport Knock) the same breaks that Shannon has got and also designate it as an international airport, not a regional one. This will allow IWAK to become the economic engine it can be. There were four  IDA visits to Mayo in 2012 and 2013 while there were 16 in Sligo, 33 in Galway, four  in Roscommon and one in Leitrim. There has to be a greater focus on job creation, the needs of rural communities and the many services that have been cut.”

FINE GAEL Cllr Gerry Coyle
A  “If I was Taoiseach I would continue to do as is being done by the present Taoiseach.  On a national basis I would introduce legislation to make it difficult for retired state employees to get reemployed by the state by introducing something like  90 per cent  tax on further earnings for all on state pensions.”

FINE GAEL Cllr Myles Staunton
 A  “A sharp emphasis needs to be placed on creating a strong environment in Mayo to attract enterprise. We need to listen more to the requirements of companies who may have a shared services element which we could attract to Mayo.  I have to say I disagree with the decision to abolish town councils … the new larger constituencies will bring politics further away from the people and will reduce the quality of representation.”

Q HAS ENDA KENNY DONE A GOOD JOB LEADING IRELAND OUT OF THE ECONOMIC CRISIS?

INDEPENDENT Cllr Michael Kilcoyne
A “No. All politics is local and his first obligation should be to the people of County Mayo who voted for him and put their trust in him and elected him as their representative their TD in our national parliament. The ordinary working people of Ireland and the old, disabled and vulnerable have taken more than their share of the cuts and suffered more of the hardship, while the likes of Irish Water is given a blank cheque to hire consultants with no accountability to the tax payer.  The bond holders were fully paid, while the banks repossess houses of families who are unable to pay their mortgages.”

FINE GAEL Cllr Peter Flynn
A “In my view Enda Kenny has done a super job in the early stages of moving us out of the economic crisis, At an international level he has excelled and at a domestic level we have made some progress but we need to ensure we remain competitive and don’t start to allow old habits to creep back. He needs to make ministers who are not performing accountable and we still need public sector reform and to tackle unemployment.”  

LABOUR Cllr Harry Barrett
A  “He, along with Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore have done an excellent job at cleaning up the mess left by the last government.   Enda Kenny walked into office with five months money left to pay the bills.   An Taoiseach’s coalition with Labour has maintained a level of decency within society; maintaining core payments to the unemployed, older people and those with a disability.”

FIANNA FÁIL Cllr Micheál McNamara
A “I acknowledge Enda Kenny for his political ability in becoming Taoiseach. I disagree totally with the austerity policies we have seen over the last number of years. I feel that our young people in particular have been sacrificed for economic policies that benefit the financial markets. So it will take me sometime to determine if we are out of the economic crisis.”

SINN FÉIN Cllr Rose Conway-Walsh
A  “We are far from out of the economic crisis.  It feels to me like the ‘Emperor with no Clothes’ – the government congratulating themselves on how well they have done when we have 1,700 people every week being forced to emigrate, 81,000 in mortgage arrears, one-in- five Irish children going to bed hungry and a health system that is designed for those who have money.  Irish Citizens paying €8 billion each year to service  private gambling debts of €69 billion is nothing to celebrate except of course for the bondholders and bankers who must be falling about laughing.”  

FIANNA FÁIL Dara Calleary TD
A  “The Taoiseach has done a good job and has a tremendous work ethic which I admire. The economic crisis is not over if you’re unemployed. It is not over if you’re  in business, particularly in the towns across the county. It is not over if you’re  a beef farmer. It is not over if you’re reading this abroad owing to emigration.  It is not over if you’re in mortgage arrears or in personal debt. There is much work to be done”.

FINE GAEL Cllr Gerry Coyle
A  “He has done and is doing a brilliant job leading Ireland out of the economic crisis . He leads from the front and is putting Ireland and its people first and not party politics .”

FINE GAEL Cllr Myles Staunton
A “Given the extremely difficult circumstances when Enda took office, he has done a remarkable job in leading Ireland out of the economic crisis. In 2011, Ireland was in crisis. Under Enda Kenny’s leadership, the national unemployment figure has decreased from 15.1 per cent  to 12 per cent, the budget deficit has decreased and we have exited the bailout. This was a brave move and took leadership to make the decision to exit the bailout.”

Q WILL HISTORY BE GOOD TO ENDA?

INDEPENDENT Cllr Michael Kilcoyne
A  “Time will tell and it depends on who writes it. If Brussels writes it he will get a gold star, but if the people who have been forced to emigrate or the terminally ill who have lost their medical cards write it, then, it will be a totally different story.”

FINE GAEL CLLR Peter Flynn
A “As a county we should be very proud  of a Mayo man the calibre of Enda Kenny. I have no doubt that in years to come we will look back at him as one of our great leaders.”  

LABOUR Cllr Harry Barrett
A   “Yes, it will.  As a Mayo man, I am very proud of him.  I think, all politics aside, his work to change the world view of Ireland from an economic mess to “the best little country to do business,” has been very successful.”

FIANNA FÁIL Cllr Micheál McNamara
A “History will show Enda Kenny to be a popular European  leader.”

SINN FÉIN Cllr Rose Conway-Walsh
A “Abroad, he will be remembered for restoring Ireland’s reputation.  Here many people will never forget him – property tax, water charges, millions to consultants, tax concessions for the wealthy, persecution of the poor.  In all fairness, he was handed a poisoned chalice from Fianna Fáil, I wish he would make different choices and make a courageous stand for ordinary decent citizens who are struggling.”  

FIANNA FÁIL Dara Calleary TD
A Yes.

FINE GAEL Cllr Gerry Coyle
A  “Without doubt history will be good to him he will be remembered as one of the best Taoisigh ever . His energy, enthusiasm and determination to get Ireland back from the brink will long be remembered by friends and foes alike.”

FINE GAEL Cllr Myles Staunton
A “Politics is a tough game and at the time of making tough decisions, politicians can be criticised. However, I think history will be very good to him as under his leadership, Ireland has emerged out of a crisis and I think the next two years will be vital to create opportunities for the Irish people who are in bad need of them and frankly deserve them given the sacrifices which have been made.”


  




 

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