Enda Kenny

By | July 8, 2008

Enda Kenny tells a story describing his annual summer holiday in Co. Kerry. Each year he looks forward to getting the bike out and making an attempt at the Conor Pass. In the summer of 2006, he’d been struggling mightily up the steep incline, puffing and gasping, conscious that his tortuous progress was being observed by a native who was leaning against a wall, chewing a piece of straw. As the Leader of the Opposition struggled past, our friend against the wall enquired “Are you enjoying yourself, are ya?

Kenny replied that despite all appearances he was enjoying himself no end. Forming a credible opposition to the behemoth that is Fianna Fail was a similar experience. It was hard work, didn’t look pretty, but he thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.

In the past couple of months it looks like Kenny has stopped enjoying the fight. He seemed to take the loss of the general election alright. After all, Fine Gael had done their bit by winning 20 seats. These days he looks tired, worn and the constant criticisms of his media performances are hurting.

So what’s gone wrong and can it be put right? I’d start by asking another question. Where is Enda Kenny? I met him a couple of times when he was a Minister in the Fine Gael led coalition government. He was a hoot. He’s a naturally vivacious man; a great raconteur who can sing a ballad, sink a pint and speak Irish just as well if not better than the current Taoiseach whose talents in these fields are so widely advertised. He has that common touch and connection with people for which the most recent ex-Taoiseach was much admired. Despite the fact that Fine Gael were written off by the commentariat before the election, he did a great job in winning as many seats as he did. He’s clearly got a lot going for him, and yet he’s missing something else too.

The something that’s missing is his personality. It took a hit when he was elected leader of the party and it disappears the second a TV camera is put on him. He’s trying too hard to be a good leader and in the process forgetting to be himself. The result is that we can’t see his natural personality: the one that got him elected in Mayo and to the leadership of his party. His speeches and comments appear contrived. He’s trying so hard he occasionally takes on the look of someone pretending to be a leader instead of someone who is.

I suspect he’s been trained. I’ve worked in Public Relations and have witnessed the havoc that media training can wreak on an otherwise perfectly personable individual. They’ve had all their foibles and errors picked over to the extent they turn into quivering wrecks. The trainee, previously a high functioning politician or executive pays big money to be told that the charismatic qualities that enabled their rise to the top are now a liability that must be stamped out at all costs. It’s a disaster. Kenny bears all the hallmarks of the over-advised. He has no self-confidence and if he has no confidence in himself, then it’s hard for the casual viewer to have confidence in him either.

So what’s to be done? Well, the first thing is that anyone who talks about dumping him should seek urgent admission into a centre for political reality checks. There’s no one on the front bench remotely capable of doing the job any better. Richard Bruton is far too genteel, James O’Reilly too raw, Simon Coveney still has growing up to do and Brian Hayes needs ministerial experience.

Furthermore, Fine Gaelers have always made the huge mistake of getting rid of leaders the minute the polls take a dive. Fianna Fail leaders have to be practically taken away in handcuffs before anyone dares to utter a word against them. Party members refuse to break ranks and people admire that. Changing leaders every few years, as Fine Gael does, shows that they are unsure, disloyal and panicky. Who’d vote for a party like that?

Kenny must stay and sort himself out. The good news is that this is a simple enough job. First he needs to take a long holiday and get a good rest. He’s no use to anyone tired and right now, he looks worn out. Doing the Conor Pass a couple of times might give him a fresh perspective. When he gets back his handlers need to slow down his schedule and keep him perky.

Then he needs to start enjoying himself again and look on the bright side. After all, it could be worse. He could be Taoiseach. In the current economic and post-Lisbon mess, he can cheerfully tell himself, “Not my problem!” Kenny doesn’t have to take the flak and oh joy, Brian Cowen does.

It wasn’t always this easy. Bertie Ahern’s easy going nature was a disaster for the opposition who found it almost impossible to rattle him. Despite predictions that the arrogant and aggressive Brian Cowen would “wipe the floor” with Kenny in the Dail, this has not proved to be the case. Cowen is easily riled. That makes him vulnerable as the F*ckers incident has already demonstrated. Dail sketch writers like Miriam Lord have conceded that in recent weeks Kenny has gained the upper hand. Cowen talked the talk during Leaders Questions on the estimates during the week, but he looked pale and uncomfortable. The shell-shocked appearance of Brian Lenihan is little help.

Kenny’s anger at the hole in the national finances was genuine and deadly. The only pity for him is that the Dail is due to rise soon and he’ll be reliant on TV appearances again to keep him in the public eye.

This is his weak spot, but there is hope there too. I know he can forget the cameras and be himself because I saw him do it once.

During the general election campaign, RTE’s Brian Dowling did some informal one-on-one interviews with the party leaders.

Kenny was interviewed in a relaxed atmosphere: some hotel where he was sitting on a couch in his shirt sleeves. For 3 or 4 glorious minutes he forgot there was a camera in the same room. He chatted seriously but lightly to Dowling explaining his political priorities. It was unscripted, sincere, and the most genuine and believable performance of the whole campaign. Or rather, it wasn’t a performance at all. It was the Enda Kenny I had met many years ago and hadn’t seen since. The Kenny that is sharp, analytical and sincere in his desire for common sense governance and social justice.

Alas, it was a fleeting moment and most voters never got to see that side of him. His other television appearances were formal set-ups where he’d been primed and coached into a mannequin.

But at least we know that he is capable of letting go of the burden of his position in front of a camera. He just needs to do it more often. He might say the wrong thing the odd time, but trying to say the right thing isn’t working for him. People don’t believe it and so they can’t quite believe in him. If he can have confidence in his own instincts and his own heart, that could change. Let the real Enda Kenny stand up. If people don’t like him, fair enough. But at least let them reject the man he is and not the man he’s trying to be. At this stage he has nothing to lose, so why not?

Note: Now lads, BEFORE Crewser, B and everybody else take off I’d like to show you this, which Pete sent me last year and I love. Let’s keep some perspective!


15 thoughts on “Enda Kenny

  1. Brenda

    We can only judge Mr Kenny by has performance as leader of the opposition in the Dail and sadly it has been inept and anaemic. Mr Kenny as a future leader ; no thank you.

  2. B

    I can’t be bothered with Mr. Crewser any longer. He is what he is and I can do nothing to change his mind or who he is.

    However I think Enda has had his chance and was MIA when Bertie could have been downed by a few easy shots.

    I don’t think that the public really cares for either FG or FF any longer and I think that a new party that has a radically different approach to both of the two main parties may come into play in the future.

    Libertas came out of nowhere and gave Cowan and his mates a bloody nose and the demographic has changed from the old farts to the people born from the 1970s on. I know technically Justin Keating was born in the 1970s but he is a conservative old fart and tied in with the old way.

    I am sure in person Enda is a great fella and might even have the policies but he seems to have had a charisma bypass on TV and seems too straight and one dimensional as a public figure.

    Not to say that Cowan has much more. He is more like a house trained bulldog now than he was.

    Labour have some politicians that I think will never get a chance and only for they are tied in with the bearded brothers in the unions I might even ahve voted for them.

    I think we all need a change. We have been going around in ever decreasing circles for years and a sure sign of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

    Crewser may now come on and savage me for condoning Anne Devitt, Global Warming and the 9/11 attacks but I am and have remained on the fence waiting to be convinced. By any party.

  3. Darren J. Prior

    “Note: Now lads, BEFORE Crewser, B and everybody else take off I’d like to show you this, which Pete sent me last year and I love. Let’s keep some perspective!”

    Yes the comments that half the country make that Enda Kenny is weak are false. He is tough in person and nobody would have the balls to call him weak in person as they would receive their marching orders.

    However, he comes across as weak- no appaling most of the time on television. He won’t be voted in as Taoiseach until he becomes a general all round effective media performer. His personal charisma might have the Fine Gael party broadly behind him and may endear him to a significant number of people he meets on the street but, again, the media.

  4. The Crewser

    For once I find myself in agreement with B, on some matters at least. Enda has had his chance and has failed miserably. By the time the next general election comes around he will have served 37 years in Dail Eireann and achieved nothing. And I do not believe that the electorate will turn to him in 2012, recession or no recession. Yes FG have changed leaders regularly or rather they have been forced to do so. The time has come again for the same painful process to commence within that party but yet again there is no outstanding figure who might rescue them from oblivion. But Enda has taken the core vote down to 17% ( you will not read that in the Sunday Times) and surely there must be someone who could improve on that, even property developer, doctor, politician the “raw” James Reilly.

  5. Darren Prior

    I heard that James Reilly owns a lot of land in North county Dublin, but is he a property developer?

  6. John

    Nice to see a balanced article on Enda Kenny for a change. Enda Kenny cannot be held responsible for the current economic mess. Each and every leader of the FG Party-since its foundation-has been demonised.

    There is much nonsense spouted about political leaders. Good political leaders bring teams of Ministers together and bring out the best in them.
    A good leader takes advice. He is decisive and does not procrastinate.

    Re Libertas: Chairman Declan Ganley is a former member of FF. A Libertas political party would just prop up FF as the PDs have done. Ganley detests FG.

    Incidentally in any FG/Labour Coalition two of the main drivers of economic policy would be Richard Bruton and Ruairi Quinn.

    When Charlie McCreevy was Minister for Finance he was the main driver of economic policy and not Bertie Ahern.

  7. The Crewser

    What a load of old nonsense from John. Not really a surprise. Charlie McCreevy was an excellent economist (much demonised by FG and Labour throughout his tenure as Minister for Finance) but Bertie Ahern was the person who allowed the likes of McCreevy the latitude to implement the brilliant policies which made Ireland the envy of Europe. What has been put in place will stand Ireland in good stead and gear us for another period of sustained growth when the international recession and credit squeeze eases.

  8. B

    This may be true but the credit squeeze is not going to ease until maybe this time next year if not further out.

    At least with McCreevy you knew where he stood and could adjust accordingly. Like the ousted McDowell.

  9. Electron

    Enda is simply too much of a gentleman for Irish politics – he hasn’t got the arrogance and brass neck of FF. He’d be more suited to a civilised and straightforward forum, like some of those in Europe.His side kick,though, Richard (The Lionheart) Bruton has become the big beast and is very impressive against the evasive Brian who is a mere pussycat.. Poor Brian and his boss, the other Brian are only legal eagles trained in the art of evasion, they appear to be totally lost in the present crisis – no forward gears, slash and burn is as imaginative as it gets. If only Enda could become totally reckless like FF – have an affair, give the two fingers to the press and threaten them with libel if they as much as look in your direction – he’d be half ways there. His problem is that he’s in a country that has had to endure so much shenanigans form FF, that it’s now the expected norm. Sad, but there you are!

  10. John

    The Crewser said: “What a load of old nonsense from John. Not really a surprise. Charlie McCreevy was an excellent economist (much demonised by FG and Labour throughout his tenure as Minister for Finance) but Bertie Ahern was the person who allowed the likes of McCreevy the latitude to implement the brilliant policies which made Ireland the envy of Europe”

    Please read the substance of my original post correctly and address the points made. You are gone off on a tangent. The central point I made was that McCreevy as Minister for Finance drove policy and not Bertie Ahern. That is correct. Ahern went along with McCreevy’s ideas for a time.

    Why did Ahern exile McCreevy to Europe? Remember Ahern then pronounced himself a Socialist. Is that nonsense too? I seem to recall the FF talk in at Inchydoney addressed by Fr Sean Healy of CORI. There was no place for the liberal economics of McCreevy any more. FF wanted a more caring face.

    My central point that a good Taoiseach is a facilitator, is correct. It is not nonsense. You seem to assume that you have a monopoly of knowledge on Irish politics.
    Have you evidence that Enda Kenny as Taoiseach would impede Richard Bruton and Rory Quinn?

    Incidentally I wonder is Ireland the envy of Europe now?

  11. William

    Ireland is still the envy of europe because our fundamentals are so strong. That allied to our determnation to ride this thing out means we are simply the best.

  12. Darren Prior

    Our fundamentals? Soon a third of the population of the country will live in one relatively small county- Dublin- and well over a half will live in Dublin and its bordering counties. We should be and we should have been attracting investment to the South, West and North-West more.

  13. Darren Prior

    Have a listen to Enda wrapping up on the Forum on Europe a couple of months ago. 😕 😳

    I’m in work so I can’t listen to the debate to pinpoint exactly where he came across very badly but its towards the end- his closing address I believe.


  14. Dan Sullivan

    Crewser, Charlie was an accountant not an economist no more than Bertie was an accountant. What is it with ye FFers and not being able to get the most basic facts straight.

    Re: the fundamentals are strong, one fundamental that is repeatedly referred to is all our young educated people. It might have escaped people’s notice but we had proportionately more young educated people in the 70/80s and it didn’t prevent FF from bankrupting us then either.

  15. Electron

    Dan, They’ve such a grip on power that they can say and do as they please – does it matter a damn to them what you think. In case you haven’t noticed you’re living in a quasi-dictatorial state. A simple test – do you know anyone who works for the civil service whose family are not FF supporters ?

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