Election 2016: Enda Kenny thinks he can survive and deliver

Taoiseach says he has responsibility to do ‘everything possible’ to secure stable government

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny concedes that the Fine Gael and Labour coalition will not be returned to government. Video: RTÉ

 

If they were presenting Oscars in Castlebar, Enda Kenny would have got one overnight in the category of ‘Actor who thinks he has a leading role’ because, despite everything that has happened, the Taoiseach still thinks he can survive and do whatever deal had to be done to deliver a stable government.

That is the clear message from comments he made last night in broadcast interviews and to journalists at the Castlebar count centre for his own Mayo constituency.

A “Tallaght strategy in reverse” said the Taoiseach when asked on RTÉ about the possibility that perhaps Fianna Fáil might support a minority Fine Gael government. He didn’t say “yes” - but he didn’t say “no” either.

However, such a scenario is unlikely to commend itself to a rejuvenated Fianna Fáil, cock-a-hoop that, a mere five years after being flung from office by an angry electorate that had come to view it as toxic and the cause of all ills. Now, Lazarus-like, Fianna Fáil is back, restored to life by the very same electorate.

Dara Calleary, Mr Kenny’s Fianna Fáil constituency colleague poised for re-election this morning when counting resumes, was also keeping options open. “Its been a good day,” he said, adding “We’ll talk about everything after we see where all the seats go.”

There is no question that Mr Kenny, like other leading players in both his and the Fianna Fáil party, is leaving open the one option they all ruled out before the election: a formal link-up with the old enemy.

“It is perfectly obvious that the government of Fine Gael and Labour can not be returned to government,” he said, adding that he had a responsibility to do “everything possible” to try to secure a stable government, one that albeit now he accepts will not be a return to the Fine Gael-Labour coalition or, vanished dream, a majority Fine Gael government.

But Fine Gael remains a player and Mr Kenny remains as Taoiseach, a position from which he cannot be removed, save by his own resignation, before the Dáil meets next month as it is the Dáil that elects a taoiseach. Ministers will also remain in office for now.

‘Progress’

“I want to make it clear that I expect that the Fine Gael party will be a large bloc in the next Oireachtas and from that point of view, my responsibility as Taoiseach is to work to see that our country has a stable government and that it has a government that can continue the work on the progress that we’ve made over the last couple of years in bringing the benefits of a recovering economy to all our people.”

It was clear from his comments overnight, that the Taoiseach is willing to talk - first with his party colleagues but then with anyone else - to ensure political stability, insofar that is possible under the circumstances.

“I want to wait and see what the eventual final outcome will be [in terms of Dáil seats] and then look at all of the options that are open to me as Taoiseach. . . I need to call my colleagues together, my parliamentary colleagues, my colleagues in government and talk about a number of issues.”

Asked if such a stable government might involve Fianna Fáil, he said: “I’m not going to talk about any of the options that are open right now.”

He said he had “a duty and responsibility to work with the decision that the people have made and provide the country with a stable government and that I intend to do fully and completely”.

None of the Fine Gael senior constituency figures in Mayo - councillors, long-time associates of the Taoiseach and senior cumann people - would say it on the record but all accept that Mr Kenny’s career as leader of the party is almost certainly over; it is just a question of time.

The final divvy out of seats will tell Mr Kenny whether he has any viable hand to play when it comes to dictating what happens next. But Fianna Fáil is feeling emboldened and will want to be the senior element in any accommodation delivering office.

“We campaigned for a change of government,” said Mr Calleary. “We campaigned for a very different Ireland; we campaigned for a fairer Ireland; we campaigned for an Ireland that respected its regions and I think we have to live up to those promises.”

He did not think the electorate had “forgiven” Fianna Fáil; they had merely accepted the party’s argument for a fairer Ireland.

The people, he said, had “bought into the concept of a fairer Ireland and we now have to look at how we deliver that”.

It is over. And it is not over but, as the Taoiseach himself noted: “Democracy is always exciting but it is merciless when it kicks in.”

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