Miriam Lord: Deluded yarns forgotten, and Kenny raring to go

They’re banging the drum, all thoughts of sleeveen politics simply banished for now

Just like that: Taoiseach Enda Kenny with party colleagues at the FG think-in at The Dunraven Arms Hotel, Adare Co Limerick. Photograph: The Irish Times

Just like that: Taoiseach Enda Kenny with party colleagues at the FG think-in at The Dunraven Arms Hotel, Adare Co Limerick. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Since last week’s report on the Taoiseach’s convenient confusion over his decisive role in the “sacktirement” of a Garda commissioner, it’s difficult to believe what Enda Kenny says now.

As he stood before his troops at the party’s think-in in Limerick on Thursday afternoon, they must have been wondering which leader had decided to turn up for duty.

Their party boss in full control of his actions and leading from the front, or the other bloke – Didn’t IntendaEnda, that champion of better politics who sneakily orchestrated the sacking of the country’s top lawman and then told a judge he was most surprised to hear he was going. He hadn’t intended that to happen.

Fire Martin Callinan without the agreement of the Cabinet? Heavens, no. That would have been against the rules.

It was more a case of Ready, Aim, Retire!

If he remembers rightly. Which, unfortunately, he doesn’t.

But never mind. It’s all over now because Enda believes the report vindicated him and he is unanimous with himself on that. And that’s all that matters. Time to move on, or so he hopes.

And who really cares that nobody with a titter of wit believes Enda’s flimsy story? Not the Taoiseach. Not his Ministers.

They have a bigger, more important message to impart. They began that process with serious intent on Thursday.

Trust and credibility in our politicians and the political process is all very fine, but government leaders know it comes a poor second to the state of nation’s finances.

In Adare, Fine Gael began beating the economy drum. Loudly. They’ll keep up the racket until the general election is over.

There wasn’t a bother on Enda when he bustled into the Dunraven Arms Hotel in Adare, businesslike in his shirtsleeves, jacket slung jauntily over his shoulder. Raring to go at the start of the political season, all thoughts of sleeveen politics banished until the next crisis.

The blame for which, if past performances are an indicator, will end up at someone else’s door anyway.

The drums were out, beating the same message: “Securing the Recovery.”

It was the backdrop in the conference hall – overlooking a lovely graveyard – where the politicians went to discuss election tactics and budget preparations.

As the Taoiseach and his Ministers pledged prudence, going forward, the Minister for Finance was also going forward in similar fashion above at the banking inquiry in Dublin.

The economy may be steaming ahead, but they won’t be doing any “daft spending” in the budget, promised Michael Noonan.

Populist opportunities

Well, he says that now....

But then you think of the Fennelly report and the Taoiseach’s deluded yarns and wonder will Enda surprise himself again by unintentionally orchestrating a spending splurge as polling day approaches.

It won’t surprise the rest of us now, though. Which is a little sad, given the great promise of the post-Fianna Fáil, stroke-free zone that was to be our shiny new Coalition.

But for the moment, it is enough for Enda to assure that “this Government are not going to do anything in a populist fashion to disrupt that competent management of the economy and the slow and steady progress that we are making now.”

Beating that drum of financial recovery, stability and growth. The alternative? Chaos and instability.

The people who worked on “hauling back our country from the economic catastrophic situation which we inherited four years ago” were busy hammering out the message.

It will register with a lot of voters and scare a lot of voters. Fine Gael’s strategists know what they’re at.

There was the complication of events in Northern Ireland to add to the mix. The Taoiseach seemed very keen to address the issues (if Bertie could do it...) and seemed well briefed.

“Clearly, Tommy Gorman has spelt out the sequence of events that might happen here in terms of focus on Westminster, in terms of focus on Peter Robinson of the DUP and what might happen after that.”

That would be Tommy Gorman of RTÉ. He’ll be delighted.

Ministers Frances Fitzgerald and Simon Coveney were putting themselves about, anxious to talk about the refugee crisis. Leo Varadkar was sporting an impressive holiday tan and saying he hoped people would get an extra few bob in the budget.

The main reason for the think-in – easy publicity and photo opportunities – went ahead as normal. Enda was wearing enough foundation on his face to give Panti Bliss a run for her money.

Local TDs Patrick O’Donovan and Dan Neville got themselves into all the photographs while Dublin’s Derek Keating shamelessly stood behind the Taoiseach at every opportunity.

The entire parliamentary party gathered on the lawn in the afternoon sunshine to do the happy-go-lucky group stride towards the cameras, Enda in the middle of the front row, Derek looming behind.

They marched, in chaotic fashion, towards the apple tree at the far end and then the photographers sent them back to do it again. They lumbered forwarded, laughing for the cameras and belting each other on the back.

Enda told the journalists not to rob any apples. Some of his more loyal backbenchers had to be stretchered away, they laughed so much.

The apples were cookers. Sour. “We putting them into tarts,” said the hotel manager.

Alan Shatter sat in the back row. The politicians, with their short attention spans, were in and out of the hall all afternoon. And so the political season begins.

“Are you happy to be back?” inquired a smiling backbencher.

“No,” we said.

To which she replied, “At least you could pretend. Like the rest of us.”

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