'Only for Enda, there wouldn't be a Fine Gael party today'


West awake as Kenny aficionados revel in result of showdown

PHOTOGRAPHS OF former US president Bill Clinton and the “Big Fella” Michael Collins adorn the walls of Thomas Collins’s office – but it was the “bigger fellow” that was on the south Mayo estate agent’s mind throughout yesterday in Castlebar.

“We’re the laughing stock of Fianna Fáil – I wouldn’t be surprised if Brian Cowen called a general election in the next fortnight,” Collins, a direct descendant of the Cumann na nGaedhael/Fine Gael founding father, said.

“Enda Kenny has made enormous sacrifices for his party, and it is an absolute disgrace that we should have found ourselves voting for our leader now because of one opinion poll,” he added. “No one wanted the poisoned chalice when Enda took over the party leadership eight years ago,” Collins continued. “We are in a situation where we have given away our gas and oil fields, and the banks have broken us, and yet in the week that we have a vote of confidence in the Taoiseach, Enda gets it in the neck.”

Rain fell incessantly for most of the afternoon. It was an hour after the sun came out that the vote result came through by text in Coady’s Bar on Linenhall Street.

Down the road from his constituency office in Tucker Street, Coady’s has been to Kenny what Fagan’s in Drumcondra has been to former taoiseach Bertie Ahern – a safe house at the best and worst of times.

Proprietor Adrian Coady runs a fourth-generation business with his wife Teresa and son Dermot. Adrian’s brother Liam, a former town councillor, drives Kenny’s car. Ergo, as one party aficionado noted, the western headquarters would hear the result before “RTÉ, Al Jazeera and Sky TV . . .”

For Ernie Sweeney, adult literacy campaigner best known for securing photographic identification on election voting papers, the result was a burden lifted. “What can someone with an economics degree know about running the country,” Sweeney asked. Economists do not think about people, they “crunch numbers”, he said.

Kevin O’Malley, a party member for over 40 years, campaigned with the late Henry Kenny, Enda’s father. “I’ve known Enda since he was a kid, and he is an honest, hard-working man. Only for Enda, there wouldn’t be a Fine Gael party today.”

Anne Cresham, Fine Gael Castlebar branch treasurer, recalled that her son Conor was christened on the day Enda was elected to the Dáil in 1975. “I just can’t understand why Richard Bruton moved when he did.”

Padraig Irwin, a party member since 1954, and Castlebar town councillor Brendan Heneghan felt that the vote margin was “immaterial” in terms of leadership authority.

“If this was a straight vote between two candidates for party leadership, any margin would confer victory,” Mr Heneghan said. “But because of the media bias against Enda, they are spinning this line that a small margin isn’t enough.”

PJ Nally, fellow branch member, agreed. “The people behind this leadership challenge never had a plan B. And remember, Enda has never needed a powder room to follow him around the country.”

Before 6pm Coady’s Bar was heaving and the word spread that the next round was on Enda.