Claims to history all very well but Enda will not get involved in mere debates
Barely had he begun his address than he was telling his audience, drawn from major US firms that have invested here, that it is his wish to see Ireland become “the best small country in the world in which to do business by 2016”. Campaign-hardened hacks mouthed “Bingo!” to each other as Enda, yet again, rolled out his best little soundbite in the world with which to do referendums. Whereupon he left his Minister for Jobs and Enterprise to deal with the question of the television debates.
“It’s not the Taoiseach’s job to provide a platform for political parties who want to promote themselves,” said Richard Bruton. “This is a deadly serious issue and I think the Taoiseach is treating it in that way.” He rejected suggestions Enda has steered clear of confrontation. “He has been campaigning vigorously. This is not a taoiseach who runs for cover. I’ve never seen a taoiseach more accessible, more out there talking to people about their concerns.”
The people from the cruise ship can testify to Enda’s accessibility. They seemed mightily impressed with him. What did he say to them when he went up to the driver’s window and grabbed his microphone? “He said ‘Is féidir linn!’ ” the tour guide told us before the coach moved off.
Back in O’Connell Street, Gerry shrugged his shoulders. “All I can say is that I was up to a debate with him.” Interestingly, he hasn’t exhibited any of the same enthusiasm over Micheál Martin’s many calls to go toe-to-toe with him. The Fianna Fáil leader is a good debater and has done well for the Yes side.
Enda, though, is Taoiseach. Gerry isn’t calling the shots. Taoisigh traditionally don’t get involved in televised head-to-heads and it’s never happened before in any referendum campaign.
A Norwegian journalist asked the Sinn Féin leader whether he wants to be prime minister and whether he hopes to join David Trimble and John Hume as a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
“I am not at all interested about office or awards,” he replied.
History was never far from his mind. Asked about Sinn Féin’s commitment to Europe (they have never supported any referendum since Ireland’s accession in 1973), he said: “We are very, very strong Europeans. Ireland was working across Europe centuries ago . . .”
Back in Merrion Street, the reluctant Taoiseach was nabbed for a closing day comment.
“I’m always confident, but not overconfident. It’s the choice of the people now . . . No referendum or election is ever won until all the votes have been counted.” After that insightful analysis, he was gone.
Gerry Adams chose the site of an old battle in 1916 to put his final case. Enda Kenny chose the new battleground of Foreign Direct Investment to fight his.
What would the men and women of 1916 have made of it all?