A reading from the letter of Enda to the Austeritarians: carry on suffering
The address was wonderfully brief. The Taoiseach is learning
Staff and customers watch Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s State of the Nation speech on television in a Dublin pub. Photograph: Dave Meehan
And for your Sunday night delectation, we have a reading from the letter of Enda to the Austeritarians…
The Taoiseach had a simple message for these difficult times last night: “Keep calm and carry on suffering; you’ve been brilliant. Just like your government. Big thanks to everyone.”
He didn’t have to hijack the national airwaves to say that. His government has been parroting the same line since Friday, when it refused to take any pleasure in exiting the bailout, except for vital PR exceptions.
In the normal course of events, wild horses couldn’t drag the Taoiseach in front of a television camera. Enda is to TV appearances what a vampire is to daylight - put him in a studio with an interviewer and he crumbles to dust.
His people reckon he’s grand on his own, though. Hence last night’s address to the nation - even though Enda had nothing new to say.
But there was nobody to ask him any awkward questions either.
He looked very tired. He sounded very tired.
The speech was filmed in a room in Government Buildings. The setting was slightly different to the last time the Taoiseach spoke directly to the people.
Two flags in one corner - the Irish flag to the fore, in full view. Beside it, the EU flag, but only a small bit of it showing just two stars.
To signify, perhaps, that we are standing on our own two feet again. (It remains to be seen whether we yet have a leg to stand on in the wider economic sense.)
Last time, Enda sat behind a desk. This was most disconcerting, because his hands were glued to it and it distracted from what he had to say.
The handlers made sure this didn’t happen again. If the Taoiseach was behind a desk, we weren’t to know, as he was only in the frame from the chest pocket up. Mind you, his arms never moved, so it’s a safe bet to assume that his hands were still tethered.
Did we say he looked wrecked?
Because he did. Perhaps it was the trip to Japan catching up on him. Perhaps it was to show the toll the last three years has taken. Because the message of bailout weekend has been unrelenting: we have all made sacrifices.
There wasn’t a hint of tinsel or a Christmas bauble in sight. Given that we can hold our heads high in Europe again, a tiny bit of festive cheer wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Afterall, as downbeat Enda told us, this morning “Ireland will again stand as a full member of the
Euro Zone - with the same rules, obligations, supports and opportunities as all other member states.”
They will be able to wear their Irish European Presidency ties with pride again. Once they’ve been washed.
Actually, we’re wrong on the tinsel front. The opening and closing scenes of Government Buildings by night showed the Christmas tree in full twinkling glory in the courtyard and what looked like an enormous illuminated harp on top of the roof.
Or maybe Diageo sponsored the broadcast.
“Ireland is now moving in the right direction” said a pinched and weary looking Enda.
A few hours earlier, on the early evening news, the Tánaiste said the same sort of thing. This is an equal opportunity exist from the bailout, and the coalition partners are taking it in turns not to make a big deal out of our bailout exit.
Eamon Gilmore was also very keen to thank the people for making a sacrifice for their country - whether they wanted to or not.
He mentioned the latest plan, and the Taoiseach elaborated on it in his broadcast. It’s “a new medium term economic plan that lays out the road ahead for our country.”
And, thank God, there will be “pillars.”
According to Enda there will be “two central pillars” which indicates there may be many other supporting planks.
But back to the Taoiseach’s second state of the nation address.
His tone of voice and up and down nature of delivery provided the only Christmassy touch - reminiscent of Frank Kelly’s Twelve Day’s of Christmas song.
Over Enda’s left shoulder, viewed through an open door into the next room, was the slightly hazy light of a table lamp. The light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps?
And behind the other shoulder, on a sidetable, was an earthenware pot.
Returned to us by the Troika so Ireland now has a pot to piss in again.
A great source of national pride.
There was a bit on the banks in Enda’s address. “The banks must do more” he said.
Not for the first time.
But we must be positive.
“Internationally, our good name and our credibility have been restored” said the Taoiseach.
Exiting the bailout sends out “a powerful signal internationally, that Ireland is fighting back, that the spirit of our people is as strong as ever.”
His government is going to continue to work increase employment and “grow the economy.”
They are committed - as the script of Enda’s speech put it - “to work, might and mane [sic], to finish the job that you entrusted to us.”
That’ll hamper Michael Noonan somewhat.