Enda won’t let political issues ruin snap-happy day

The Taoiseach is strong on high-fiving kids and posing for photos and . . . well, that’s it really

Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD canvassing in Blanchardstown Shopping Centre yesterday. Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill

Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD canvassing in Blanchardstown Shopping Centre yesterday. Photograph; Dara Mac Dónaill

Mon, May 19, 2014, 09:07

You know that restaurant thing we do? When the food hasn’t been good and the service terrible, and the waiter who spent an evening trying to ignore you oozes over with a smarmy: “And how was everything for you folks?” And instead of telling the waiter to folks off with himself and his condescendingly crummy canteen, you mumble “lovely, lovely”, settle the bill and run away. Retribution comes in complaints to family and friends and a vow never to darken its doors again.

That restaurant thing came to mind on Saturday when Enda Kenny, the nation’s front of house man, passed among his paying customers. The bill-payers were pleasant, but strangely muted and unopinionated.

After a long programme of engagements, the Taoiseach arrived at Blanchardstown Shopping Centre in the late afternoon. Enda Kenny is incapable of getting through a referendum or election campaign without doing a turn around Blanch, which has more high- fiveable kids per square metre than any other shopping area in the country. The welcoming party is even bigger than usual, comprising European election candidate Brian Hayes and his team; byelection candidate Eamonn Coghlan and his team, and a number of local election candidates and their teams.

Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll on European candidates

The supremely assured Coghlan seemed none the worse for his disastrous outing on the Vincent Browne show last week. His bizarre re-enactment of an encounter with an angry constituent had traumatised viewers queuing outside chiropodists to have their toes uncurled. Senator Coghlan, resplendent in shades and leather jacket, brought along some of his biker pals for the occasion. They lined up their shiny machines in the forecourt for the Taoiseach to admire. Eamonn introduced Enda (who wisely refused to wear a leather jacket) to his Suzuki V-Stream. The lads cooed over it, Enda leaned dreamily over the handlebars and Eamon – “we did 3,000 miles in California” – talked about himself.

Laying on of The High Five

The former athlete would know the importance of limbering up before the main event. In the Taoiseach’s case, this meant an opening flurry of thumbs-up above the petrol tank. Once he was match fit, a boy-child was plonked on the seat of an adjoining Yahama and the ceremonial Laying On of The High Five began.

Brian Hayes looked worried for a man who had just heard he performed well in the latest raft of opinion polls. “It’s my wife’s 40th tonight and we’re having it in the house and I’ve been away all day and we’ve still got Dundrum to do.” No wonder the man was stressed.

There was a discreet garda presence around, but the Taoiseach remained unmolested by supporter or protester. He made straight for people at the seating area inside the main doors. Two women smiled, but weren’t willing to talk. The man sitting next to them stood up and walked away. On the plus side, the recognition factor for Enda is huge. He’s a magnet for children and teenagers, who approach with their mobiles in hand, knowing they’ll get a photo of themselves high-fiving the Taoiseach. The younger ones are propelled into the frame by proud parents.

Brian Hayes looks at all this, a baffled expression on his face. Eamonn Coghlan is reduced to taking the snaps. Enda isn’t talking issues with people. But then, they don’t want to talk issues with him. All they want is their photo, which will be treasured, no matter what anyone thinks of the Government, because it’s brilliant to have a picture for posterity of the day your little darling met the Taoiseach.