Kenny’s RTÉ address will be sixth time a taoiseach has addressed nation outside election time

Jack Lynch and Charles Haughey made the two most memorable addresses

Former taoiseach Charles Haughey. He signalled a change in direction in 1980 with the warning: “We as a people are living way beyond our means.” Photograph: David Sleator

Former taoiseach Charles Haughey. He signalled a change in direction in 1980 with the warning: “We as a people are living way beyond our means.” Photograph: David Sleator

Sat, Dec 14, 2013, 01:00


Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s address on RTÉ tomorrow night to mark the end of the three- year EU-IMF bailout programme will be the sixth time a political leader has made a direct television address to the nation on occasions other than elections or referendums.

Mr Kenny’s address will be broadcast after the 9pm news and is expected to last seven minutes.

On Monday, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and Shane Ross of the Dáil technical group will be allotted a similar period of airtime overall to respond to Mr Kenny’s address. RTÉ has said it has given them the opportunity to respond “in the interests of balance and fairness”.

The two most memorable “state of the nation” addresses were made by Jack Lynch in 1969 and Charles Haughey in 1980.

In both broadcasts there were lines that are still remembered more than three decades later. Lynch’s broadcast was in response to the alarming upsurge of violence in the North, directed at the minority community. He told RTÉ viewers that the government could no longer stand by but would defend the Catholic community.

Haughey’s address was delivered in early 1980 within weeks of him assuming the position of taoiseach. With the expansionist policies promised by the Fianna Fáil manifesto of 1977 failing, he signalled a change in direction with the warning: “We as a people are living way beyond our means.”

Garret FitzGerald delivered two addresses when he was taoiseach. Both were about on the economy.

Tomorrow night’s broadcast will be the second by Mr Kenny. He gave his first one in December 2011, shortly before the Coalition government delivered its first budget.

A taoiseach of the day has a statutory right under the Broadcasting Act 2009 to deliver a “state of the nation” address, but RTÉ is obliged only to accede to the request if the State is in a state of national emergency. On this occasion, the broadcast time was not requested under any legislation. As in 2011, the Taoiseach asked RTÉ to grant time for the broadcast and it agreed to do so.