Links surrounding Enda Kenny’s PR move prove Ireland is just a village

Ex-taoiseach well acquainted with new colleagues at Heneghan Strategic Communications

As Taoiseach, Enda Kenny’s biggest weakness – occasionally acknowledged by the man himself – was in communications. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

As Taoiseach, Enda Kenny’s biggest weakness – occasionally acknowledged by the man himself – was in communications. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

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Enda Kenny had a largely successful six-year stint as taoiseach. The Mayo man confounded his doubters with energetic leadership. On his watch, the State exited a humiliating fiscal bailout and the economy was quickly rebuilt to become the fastest-growing in Europe.

However, his biggest weakness – occasionally acknowledged by the man himself – was in communications. The perception that his government, and he as its leader, communicated poorly with the public was one of the main reasons why the Fine Gael party replaced him with Leo Varadkar.

Despite communications being his Achilles heel, Kenny has agreed to join the board of a lobbying and public relations firm, Heneghan Strategic Communications, run by Nigel Heneghan. He takes up the Heneghan role next month to give the firm “guidance on its future strategic direction”. It’s his second notable move in the world of business since he stepped down as taoiseach in 2017.

Kenny’s first move in business, in 2019, was to chair the global advisory board of private equity group VentureWave Capital. Ireland is a land of personal networks and linkages. VentureWave’s managing partner is Alan Foy, who has worked closely with Heneghan on many projects. For example, Heneghan currently handles VentureWave’s public relations. In a way, Kenny will have an interest in both sides of that arrangement after he joins Heneghan.

Here is another link. The Heneghan firm’s director of public affairs is Eoghan Ó Neachtain, who served under Kenny for a year as the government press secretary from 2011.

About four years after he stopped working for the government and had joined Heneghan, Ó Neachtain placed a secret call to the then minister for communications, Denis Naughten, on behalf of one of the firm’s clients, Independent News & Media (INM).

Ó Neachtain was seeking information from Naughten on the progress of State authorisation that INM, then backed by Denis O’Brien, was seeking for a proposed takeover of Celtic Media.

The takeover never went through, but when details of that phone call emerged two years later, Naughten almost lost his job in the political furore that followed. Naughten’s boss as taoiseach when he took that controversial call from Heneghan’s director of public affairs was . . . Kenny, Heneghan’s new non-executive director.

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