Enda Kenny: I bumped into a handy personal anecdote
Taoiseach has happy knack of meeting people who back up his arguments
Surprisingly good encounters: Enda Kenny in Newcastle Woods with Martin Dalby CEO of Center Parcs which plans a new centre in Co Longford. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons / The Irish Times
Taoiseach Enda Kenny seems to bump into more people on the street every day than your average charity mugger.
And, by some great stroke of serendipity, what is said in these random encounters always happens to chime exactly with the political arguments he is making at the time.
This week, during a Dáil exchange on water charges with Gerry Adams, he started with one of his familiar “I met a man” anecdotes.
“The man who stopped me with the two pints in his hand last week,” he said, “was shouting about the cost of water that he couldn’t pay for. And I said to him, what he was holding in his hands would pay for water for him – because I know him – for nearly 10 weeks.”
Strangely, the Taoiseach seemed to have met the same man with two pints in his hand earlier this year, when he reeled off the same anecdote in the Dáil in February.
There is a little form here. Here’s a contribution from 2009 when, as Opposition leader, he berated the government over transport for hospital appointments. “I met a woman this morning who had driven from Co Cavan for an appointment in the Mater hospital. She had no bus transport and eventually got a taxi in order to get to her appointment.”
Or a more recent example from late 2014 on homelessness: “I spoke to somebody on the street the other night from a county outside Dublin who had had a row with his spouse, was on the streets and, according to himself, will be on them for a couple of weeks.”
Or here’s another from 2009 in a debate about slow responses to emergency cases: “I was in Cabra one morning recently with Deputy Brian Hayes when two women approached me to say that two days previously a 92-year-old woman had fallen on the street. She lay on the footpath for 45 minutes before an ambulance arrived. Medics had to strip the woman on the pavement to attend to her bruises and other injuries.”
In November 2013, another personal encounter helped bolster an argument about voluntary emigration: “I met a young man in Waterford the other day who went to Australia, worked for 14 months doing two and three jobs when he could, came back with €100,000 and set up his own business, and he was very happy to do so. It was his choice to earn money where he could, do two or three jobs where he could get them and come back with that.”
Or being upbeat about jobs in 2011 at the time of a jobs announcement: “A man on the site said to me on that day: ‘It’s great to hear the sound of buckets rattling round this site again.’ That is the type of expression of confidence we must get back.”
But occasionally such encounters turn out not to be. After the October budget, the Taoiseach claimed workers had contacted him to thank him for tax reductions.
“It was great to see some people contacting us, saying: ‘Well, I’m not sure whether it was a mistake or not, but I seem to have got extra money in this last payment.’ We want to continue that,” he said.
When pressed, a spokesman later said Mr Kenny was not in fact contacted but had used a “turn of phrase” in his comments.