Kenny needs to be ‘A’ student by next budget
IF TAOISEACH Enda Kenny was a Leaving Cert student in the ongoing State exams his average mark would be a B+ mark. That is the view of Sunday Independent commentator, John Drennan, in his assessment of the Mayo man’s first 100 days at the helm of this government.
However, that mark comes with a health-warning. Drennan observes: “This student is, however, learning there is more to government than showing foreign dignitaries around, for the Kenny bandwagon is beginning to rattle.”
One hundred days into the 31st Dáil and there is no real sign of the honeymoon ending. Not yet. That is despite the predictable rumbling of bored media commentators, many of whom have transformed into partisan spin doctors rather than objective and probing witnesses for the Fourth Estate.
Take the OTT reaction to Minister Leo Varadkar’s remarks about another bailout in The Sunday Times some weeks ago and the squawking about the fact that over 2,200 media outlets around the world reported them.
What Varadkar actually said was: “I think it’s very unlikely we’ll be able to go back [into the markets] next year. I think it might take a bit longer . . . 2013 is possible but who knows?”
He also added that it might mean an extension of the existing EU-IMF programme or a second initiative.
Responding to the media furore, Enda Kenny said:
“People can have their views about the meaning of words, but let me clarify for you again: there will be no need for a second bailout for Ireland in 2012,” he said.
There may be semantics here but fundamentally Kenny did not contradict Varadkar.
But politics is all about optics. And no better man than the Father of the Dáil, Enda Kenny to understand that game.
Against the odds – and the will of a baying Dublin media – he cleverly survived a significant heave this time last year. Outwitting and out-stepping his detractors every step of the way, he now exudes confidence and comfortableness in his role as Taoiseach.
Clearly, he was boosted by the fact that his first months included two historic visits – Queen Elizabeth and President Barack Obama. Undoubtedly, they helped distract the public from the stark economic realities. Moreover, don’t underestimate the lasting feel-good effect this will create.
Indeed, the public is sick of the media’s obsession with bankers, economists, doomsdayers.
They like Enda Kenny. At the moment, anyway. (It is important though – particularly for Enda – to remember the Irish electorate is fickle.)
But that front page Irish Times picture of him linking the two Aer Lingus hostesses sporting a broad smile – with a characteristic soupcon of devilment – was a tonic for the ennui of economics. Thirty- fives years grappling with the cut-and-thrust of the blood-sport that is politics means that EK knows well that the honeymoon will end, sooner or later. Some commentators say next December’s budget will ensure that the fragrance of the honeymoon suite is relegated to the charmlessness of a cheap motel room.
Back in February Enda Kenny promised to ‘get Ireland working’. He outlined 25 specific and sweeping steps – including a Job Creation Bill, political reforms, replacement of non-executive bank directors, abolition of 20 State bodies, audit of public sector waste – to implement the famous Five Point Plan.
Three months later and a fresh breeze still blows through Leinster House. A worn out public is still instilled with a certain tentative hope, despite the minutiae of criticisms. But that wouldn’t be hard after the political and economic legacy left by Fianna Fáil.
What did the public think of the first 100 days?
Síle Mulloy Ryan Westport
“I think he’s grown in to the role and he’s been very good to date. I think people felt that he waited for so long to become Taoiseach that he may have gone off the boil, but I have to say that I have been extremely impressed.”
Ted Conway Castlebar
“Good luck to the man in his difficult task in getting this country back on its feet. No miracles as of yet but we’ll see how it goes. I’m hopeful more than confident that he can improve things in today’s world.”
Paddy Guthrie Westport
“I don’t think he’s done a lot actually. It seems to me that it’s just a publicity episode. I don’t think there’s a lot he can do. I think to be quite honest we’ve signed up to Europe. I’ll put it to you like this; all the orders are coming down.”
Joao Casimiro Castlebar, native of Portugal
“I think if you compare the economic situation of Ireland with countries like Greece and Portugal the Irish have made more correct decisions. Ireland has done more right things to stabilise the economy. I think Enda Kenny is doing a really good job.”
Anthony O’Malley Westport
“He’s a very learned person. He has impressed me. He has surprised me as regards his grasp of economics. Despite what some experts think, you can be a teacher and still have a very good understanding of economics and accounting.”
Carol Rouibet Castlebar
“I think he’s performed good. But 100 days is not long enough really to judge a new government because they came in at a very bad time, so I think give it another year or so and we’ll have a good idea of how they’ve done.”
Has the Taoiseach been in Mayo too much?
Two days before the General election, Enda Kenny pledged that ministers in his Government would stay away from constituency work during their first 100 days in power. However, Deputy Kenny has arguably never been seen more in his home county since his own election. Should Enda Kenny be more concerned with sorting out the country’s economic situation than attending events in his native county? Here are two differing opinions.
Time to leave the parish pump behind
Enda Kenny is an honest man. Many politicians’ promises can last as long as dry weather in Ireland but when our current Taoiseach says something, he usually sticks by it.
Therefore when I heard him say in the run-up to the February election that he and his ministers would stay away from constituency work during their first 100 days in government, I was delighted.
For too long we’ve allowed the local to dominate the national in Irish politics. When the country was falling in around him, Brian Cowan still felt the need to hold a constituency clinic in Offaly on Mondays to listen to complaints ranging from medical cards to hedge-cutting from constituents. We’re a country where a politician’s success is often dependent, not on their legislative ability, but on whether he or she was ‘well got’ locally, made sure they went to enough funerals and was always at the end of a phone to deal with trivial, parochial issues.
And, to be fair, the politicians have focused on the local often out of necessity. If you don’t do the work ‘on the ground’, you could struggle come election time. Like him or loathe him, Michael McDowell was in politics to work at the national level, not the local. He lost his Dáil seat three times, that’s no coincidence.
Too many TDs in the past acted like glorified county councillors, more concerned with the local than the national. Sure, it might be out of very simple self-preservation needs but it is a cancer on Irish politics. It was extremely refreshing to hear Enda Kenny declare that, for at least the first 100 days, constituency work which he once described as a ‘circus’ would be put to one side for the cabinet to concentrate exclusively on national matters.
But Enda has slipped back into too many of the ‘parish pump’ occasions that our TDs shouldn’t be engaged in, not to mind our Taoiseach. I’m sure everyone involved in the various events Enda has been to will argue that they were deserving of his presence and that his appearance gave them a great lift. Enda Kenny himself might argue that he’s only concentrating on local openings and functions in his spare time - usually at weekends. Others will say that he worked long and hard to be Taoiseach and deserves to be feted in Mayo. But ask yourself, as a constituent of the Taoiseach, where you would rather see him. Dublin or raising a green flag at a national school in Mayo? If we are to have a bright, new dawn in Irish politics, we need to move away from the parish pump. There’s no election on the horizon and there are significant economic woes to deal with. If ever a time was right to break from the old way, it is now. Enda Kenny must set the example.
The roots of Enda Kenny’s raising run deep
THINGS may not be much better than they were 100 days ago but at least the doom and gloom of the past two or three years is nowhere as pervasive in society as it was in the dying days of the last Government. There comes a time in the affairs of a nation when change is not only demanded but is necessary. The Irish people saw to it that such was the case last February.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the 18th century philosopher, once reflected on politics - “The body political, like the human body, begins to die from the date of its birth, and carries in itself the causes of its destruction.” Fianna Fáil, at this stage, know only too well the inherent truth of that statement. And, no doubt, a few years down the road, the current Government will also learn the same eternal truth.
But, as of now, we are in the moment. Reflecting on 100 days is a short time but I think it is fair to say that Enda Kenny has more than surprised many of his critics. He has brought a new drive and zest to the position of Taoiseach. He was exemplary in the manner in which he handled the two big State visits of Queen Elizabeth and President Barack Obama.
Enda, through his teamwork approach, has put the skids under many of his colleagues in Government. He is leading from the front, demanding results, and those assigned duties better live up to expectations. Otherwise, their will be some short-lived ministerial careers this time around.
As Taoiseach, Enda’s first duty is to the country. But surely he is entitled to spend time among those who made him what he is, the people who imbued him with the qualities that are now making him feel ‘at home’ no matter what parts of the world his mission takes him.
Strange how this should become an issue for some people. I don’t ever recall it being an issue (nor should it have been) for Bertie Ahern who was constantly out and about in his Dublin constituency during his years on office. Even in the new Cabinet, there is a major and almost overbearing leaning towards Dublin but you never hear the Dublin-based media complain about that.
Mayo is home to Enda. It is the well from where he draws sustenance and nourishment. He exudes a natural warmth that cannot be bought. It’s an old style West of Ireland thing. And it’s a winner. The roots of his raising run deep. He is entitled to replenish them as often as he can.
Some of the events Enda Kenny has attended in Mayo as Taoiseach are
- A soccer blitz in Breaffy
- Opening of new facilities at Meelickmore NS in Swinford
- Raising of Green Flag in Cornanool NS
- Visit to St Joseph’s Secondary School, Castlebar
- Launch of mayo.ie website
- Launch of National Sunflowers Day in Castlebar
- Presentation of bike in Castlebar for Ring of Kerry charity cycle
- Launch of website at Sancta Maria College, Louisburgh
- At opening of Ballintubber Resource Centre
- Opening of national school facilities in Ballycroy
- At Gourmet Greenway launch in Mulranny
- Opens new facilities at Glenisland NS
- At ‘Pink Day’ in Claremorris
- Raises Green Flag at St Patrick’s NS in Castlebar
- At National Conference of Cystic Fibrosis Ireland, in Westport
- Participates in John Giles Walk of Dreams in Castlebar