Hear Ye! Hear Ye! The Taoiseach Speaketh!
Deaglán de Bréadún
Well, there you have it. No great surprises in that, were there? It was billed as a National Address but really it was in many ways a Party Political Broadcast on behalf of the coalition partners. Quite rightly, the Opposition are getting a chance to reply.
The message was predictably simple and uncomplicated. To summarise and paraphrase the Taoiseach’s remarks:-
The country is in a bad way, folks, but we are leading you on the right road to solving the problems.
We have to take some painful decisions in this week’s Budget but they are the right decisions and ye’ll all be the better for it.
I know it’s tough but it’s the price we must pay to restore our economic sovereignty and create jobs.
We’ll try and get that crowd in Europe to take the right decisions to shore up the single currency, otherwise we’re all screwed.
Thank you and good night. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.
Enda Kenny comes from a strong Gaelic football background and his address tonight was reminiscent of a team-manager giving the lads a pep-talk in the dressing-room at half-time.
Hopefully, people will be encouraged and derive some hope from the speech. There was nothing new but there was nothing too alarming either.
After all, what can he say? The Government is ticking all the boxes for the EU and the IMF but we are all at the mercy of international events.
Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy are playing a more important role in shaping our future at the present moment than Enda Kenny. If the Euro collapses, the price – at least in the short term – will be high and we’ll all be paying it.
This was the sixth “State of the Nation” address since we got our own TV station, Telefís Éireann – now RTE. None of the previous five are remembered with any particular fondness or admiration.
At the outbreak of the Northern troubles, then-Taoiseach Jack Lynch gave two telly-orations. The only memory most people have of them now is that he pledged the Government would not “stand by” if violence and repression against nationalists continued.
Apparently the script said “idly”, as in “stand idly by” and that is the phrase which went into folklore.
Just over a decade later, Charles Haughey, newly-elected as Taoiseach, told his listeners that “we are living away beyond our means”. (My English teacher would have commented that is more correct to say “way bey0nd our means”.) He pledged to restore the nation’s finances, but political factors prevented him from taking any serious remedial action at that time although he got around to it some years later.
Garret FitzGerald made two State of the Nation broadcasts but they are not widely-remembered. Bertie kept his counsel.
The legislation for affording these opportunities specifies that there must be a “major emergency” at the time. However, TV3 was committed to broadcasting the “X-Factor” in a specific time-slot tonight, so the Taoiseach’s remarks had to be carried afterwards on that station, whereas RTE had him on-screen after the Nine O’Clock News.
When Brian Cowen was taoiseach, there was much talk of his making a similar broadcast but he never got around to it. Most observers would agree that he was unwise not to take the opportunity.
There were few surprises in Enda Kenny’s speech tonight, it was mainly a scene-setter for a difficult Budget tomorrow and Tuesday. Interesting how popular the guy is as Taoiseach when his ratings were so mediocre as Opposition leader.
NOTE: NOTE: This blog-post was originally written in advance of the Taoiseach’s speech and updated after he had finished. The first five comments below were written in response to the earlier version.