During the canvass, we struggled to find anyone in favour of keeping the Seanad

Enda seizes the opportunity to showcase his street cred

Enda was in his element. Relaxed, and more than willing to debate why he believes the people should vote on Friday to abolish the Seanad.

Enda was in his element. Relaxed, and more than willing to debate why he believes the people should vote on Friday to abolish the Seanad.

Mon, Sep 30, 2013, 11:35

Can you guess where we weren’t on Saturday?

Clue: Enda was in his element. Relaxed, and more than willing to debate why he believes the people should vote on Friday to abolish the Seanad.

Yes, that’s right.

We were nowhere near a television studio.

We were in Blanchardstown Shopping Centre and then in Liffey Valley Shopping Centre – the Taoiseach’s two favourite locations for campaigning in Dublin. “Engaging with the public” it’s called.

And Enda Kenny is very engaging with the public.

A lad of about 14 approached him in Liffey Valley, holding up his phone. “Can I take a picture?” he mumbled self-consciously, leaning in towards the Taoiseach. Enda immediately seized the opportunity to showcase his street cred.

“Is it a selfie, is it?” he asked, sounding pleased with himself.

The boy gave him a withering look.

Silence.

“Is that a selfie?” repeated Enda, with a knowing smile.

(A “selfie” m’lud, is what the young people today call a photograph taken of oneself, by oneself, on one’s mobile phone.)

At which point the young fella – oozing mortification and pity – swiftly handed the phone to the adult with him who took the picture. His face suggested an excellent slogan for Fine Gael election posters: “Enda Kenny – as bad as your Da.”

For the Taoiseach has what it takes to be a canvassing party leader par excellence: no shame and no embarrassment threshold. Bertie Ahern had it in spades.

During a brief media opportunity, Enda was asked again about his refusal to take part in a televised debate on the Seanad. Would he change his mind and accept RTÉ’s invitation to thrash out the issues with the Fianna Fáil leader?

Enda paused. “No.”

Why not?

“Micheál Martin is looking for notice. This is the people’s choice.”

In the course of three hours spent accosting members of the public, we didn’t hear one person ask the Taoiseach about taking part in a debate. Hardly anyone brought up the subject of the Seanad unprompted.

Instead, shoppers wanted to talk about their own problems – children living on the other side of the world; the health service; the state of the taxi industry; the erosion of teachers’ pay and conditions; cuts in services.

But Gaelic football and that evening’s All-Ireland hurling final were the main topic for discussion.

Celia Hogan from Leixlip was having a cup of coffee and minding her own business when the Taoiseach plonked himself down beside her, a bashful looking Leo Varadkar in tow.

‘I think he’s a dictator’
When Celia was joined by friends Anne Lowney and Maura Currie – they did their nursing training together in James’s Hospital 44 years ago – Enda went into overdrive. The women looked bemused.

“Thank God I recognised him,” said Celia, when he eventually left them alone. A fourth friend joined them. “I think he’s a dictator,” she declared.

Their views on the referendum were evenly divided.

At this stage Enda was discussing nutrition with a women drumming up business for “Slimming World” weight loss clubs.

“Oh yes. You buy the chicken and chips and they can be very fattening,” he remarked. “Breakfast, lunch and dinner and the snacking in between,” he continued, seemingly under the impression that this international company is a local “organisation” dedicated to combating childhood obesity.

Then he spotted Bernie Regan, who lives in Mayo but comes from Clare and was up for the match. Enda hugged her and caressed her hand. “Hon the banner!” he shouted.

“I told him, lookit, that Seanad should be gone years ago,” said Bernie.

During the canvass, we struggled to find anyone in favour of keeping the Seanad. Perhaps the choice of location was something to do with it. We’re hearing reports that the dinner party constituency is a stong No vote. Pat Brown from Celbridge was an exception, putting up a strong and articulate argument.

They debated outside Easons for the best part of 10 minutes. Enda held his own. At the end, both men declared democracy the winner.

‘Toe-curlingly surreal’
The finale was toe-curlingly surreal. Enda had wandered into a fashion show in Liffey Valley’s main concourse.

As the music pulsed, Enda threw his arms in the air, fingers clicking, and dad-danced to the podium. Shoppers looked on, speechless. Then he took the mike and began to commentate, ordering the models down the runway.

It was terrifying, like watching a pumped up Mayo version of Daniel O’Donnell meets Daithi O’Sé. “Paula here is wearing Benneton, check jacket and leather skirt.. g’wan. Way to go, Paula, that’s it, yeah.”

He ordered out the next model. “Follow her on down the red carpet. G’wan g’wan, g’wan. Good man!

“And now we have Philip, he’s wearing a tweed long jacket, green pants and a check shirt. Good man Philip! He shudda had a red tie for Mayo, but anyway, g’wan!”

We had to leave and have a lie down.