After a descent in the polls, Enda ready to gain the high ground

Wed, Apr 25, 2012, 01:00

DÁIL SKETCH:THE SIGNS were there 61 years ago in Castlebar. “A bouncing baby boy, Mrs Kenny!” At this point, the midwife should have delivered the traditional smack on the bottom. Instead, Enda gave her a hearty slap on the back and a big thumbs up to his mammy.

A career in politics beckoned.

Four years later in Galway, on the same day in April, another red-haired newborn entered the world. “A bouncing baby boy, Mrs Gilmore!” They swaddled the infant Eamon in a tiny duffle and he roared his lungs out in a cot on the left-hand side of the bed.

A career in politics beckoned.

And look at the two of them now: Taoiseach and Tánaiste.

Twin Taureans Enda and Eamon got a nasty early birthday present last week when the results of the latest Irish Times/MRBI opinion poll were published. They looked none the worse for that shock in the Dáil yesterday, although in keeping with their shared star sign they must have been like a pair of bulls when they saw the disappointing figures.

It was business as usual for them – these aren’t times for celebration.

Gerry Adams couldn’t resist marking the occasion during Leaders’ Questions, not least because it gave him the chance to tie “the austerity treaty” into the 1916 Proclamation by way of Enda and Eamon’s big day.

Perhaps the Taoiseach didn’t know that the Proclamation was read out in Dublin on the same date, 96 years ago? But Enda’s sense of history hadn’t deserted him, as he acknowledged that “my emergence into the world occurred on the date in April 1916 when those who emerged from the ruins of the GPO declared the Proclamation as the country took its first fledgling steps toward economic and political independence.” Stirring stuff.

They were misty-eyed on the Sinn Féin benches. Where are the Wolfe Tones when you need them?

If the Taoiseach and Tánaiste’s birthday wish is to reclaim Ireland’s economic sovereignty, they’re going the wrong way about it by supporting the fiscal compact treaty, said the Sinn Féin leader.

Actually, Enda knows exactly what he wants for his birthday: a train set. He’s said it enough in the run-up to the referendum on the treaty. At this stage, he isn’t even dropping hints.

“On the first of January next year, the train for Europe’s future is leaving the station. We want to be on it,” he told Gerry.

“Perhaps you might tell me, on my birthday, where it is that Sinn Féin is going to get the money to run the services?”

But the spirit of the occasion didn’t stretch that far for deputy Adams. “The thing about today is that I get to ask the questions and you get to avoid them.”

Richard Boyd Barret wasn’t about to break open the bubbly either as he took his first crack at the Taoiseach as the Technical Group’s representative at Leaders’ Questions.

He followed the Adams line, wondering why the government was promoting the fiscal compact when the “agenda of austerity is not working and strangling the economy of Europe with debt”.

The birthday boy looked across at the People Before Profit man. “You’re fixated now by austerity and cuts.”

“I’m traumatised by it” retorted RBB. “Honest to God, you’re living on a different planet.”

“I live in the same world as you, deputy Boyd Barrett” countered Enda, “but not in the same sphere as you.”

He said he saw him in Galway, doing nothing when his “supporters spat at the gardaí and spat at security personnel” at the Labour party conference.

“’Scuse me? ’Scuse me, Taoiseach” bridled Richard. “Of course I condemn spitting!”

At least this was something upon which everyone agreed.

We wondered if Enda and Eamon might be doing anything later on for their birthdays. But no. After the Dáil, it was off for a series of meetings for the rest of the night.

The Taoiseach tells us he will be unwinding on Saturday by leading a charity climb up Croagh Patrick.

Republic of Ireland soccer manager Giovanni Trapattoni and his lieutenant Marco Tardelli will be on hand in Mayo to wave him off on “Enda’s Trek with Trap’s Green Army”.

Enda says he hopes a big crowd will join him on the day. Weather permitting, he’ll be wearing his green jersey for the occasion. (It’s probably in need of a good wash by now, given that he hasn’t taken it off since he became Taoiseach.) When Trap called to Government Buildings a few weeks ago to publicise the event, the Taoiseach greeted him as “Commissario Tecnico”.

Apparently the Italian prime minister told him in Rome recently that the national team coach is known as the Commissario Tecnico. Mario Monti, who heads a technical government, likes to call himself a Commissario Tecnico.

Does this make Enda our Commissario Electico? He’s keen to drum up as much support as possible for Saturday (for more details on the event, visit hospice.ie).

The Tecnico and The Electico will be in Murrisk at midday.

It should be a dawdle for Enda, compared to the unforgiving slopes of the Dáil.