This Column appeared in the Cork Independent on Thursday 26th May 2011
I joined Fine Gael in 2004. If someone told me on that day, that in seven years time Enda Kenny would be welcoming the British Queen and American President to Ireland as the leader of the largest party in Dáil Eireann and the Toaiseach of the largest Government Majority in coalition with Labour. I probably would have laughed in their face and said in your dreams.
During my many years in the party we had ups and downs, thankfully I was too young to have been around for the heartache that was the 2002 election. But still we had down times during ill timed announcments, racist jokes and of course leadership rumours and heaves.
Enda has not been the most popular Leader of Fine Gael, either among the grassroot members or the general public. He generally muddled true and it was viewed by many, including myself at times, that the incompetence of the then Government over some issues is what was making Enda look good.
In the lead up the this years General Election, the leadership was the biggest issue on the doorstep, after the economy of course. Coming up to the TV3 debate in which Enda refused to take part in, saw people being most critical of him. But after that it changed. The RTÉ and TG4 debates changed peoples mind and saw him as a safe pair of hands.
When he was elected Taoiseach on 9th of March, Enda started his biggest political challenge since 2002. How as it gone since then? Quite well. Enda has surprised his critics and his supporters in how he has handled his role as Taoiseach. He is playing the role of chairman and has made appointments to cabinets based on strengths. It is stilll early days and major challenges lie ahead.
What has he done well? He has managed to judge the public mood with his speeches and say exactly the right things. During the visit of Her Majesty and President Obama he has spoken gracefully and eloquently about the visits and how important they are to us all as a country. He has spoken well in the Dáil on many issues from the Banking crisis to political reform. This of course can just be seen as platitudes
What hasnt he done well on? The much vaulted and hoped for reduction in the Irish Bailout rate has yet to materialise. Enda has spoken much and this subject and while pressing his European colleagues it has failed to materialise. Enda has also failed to stop the jibes in Dáil, which can often be seen as a reason why people have lost interest in the politics. He himself is guilty of it.
There are many challenges ahead for the Government. This years budget could be make or break in terms of support from the public. Political Refrom could become a dead end as politicians could refuse to change their ways as they have in the past. And of course there is the finiancial system itself. It the economy dosen’t improve, will the government go with it.
Overall Verdict: Better then Expected