Taoiseach defends record during radio exchange

Kenny says Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore ‘a fundamental part’ of Government

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his wife Fionnuala voting in the Local and European election’s yesterday in  his hometown of Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photograph: Keith Heneghan/The Irish Times.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his wife Fionnuala voting in the Local and European election’s yesterday in his hometown of Castlebar, Co Mayo. Photograph: Keith Heneghan/The Irish Times.

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has tonight delivered a defence of his Government’s record in office following losses in the local elections and said the electorate will decide “in two years time” whether it has fulfilled its mandate.

“Elections are always difficult,” he said during an at times heated interview on Newstalk 106-108FM with news director John Keogh. “It was not a good day for people in Government. Clearly, we’ve lost a substantial number of councillors who would have served their communities well over the years.

“Let me say this: we went into this Government with our eyes wide open. The Government of Fine Gael and Labour undertook to sort out our public finances in what was the worst economic catastrophe since the foundation of the State.

“This was not easy and if it was easy it would have been done years ago. The requirements and the decisions that were made are very difficult and part of that plan and strategy is understanding the difficulties and challenges people have.”

Mr Kenny said he respected the vote but that it was borne of “frustration” and “anger” because the electorate was yet to feel any sense of economic recovery on the ground.

“I respect the vote,” he said. “I know what’s in it. It’s frustration, it’s anger, and it’s saying ‘show me where the return on my challenge and the sacrifice I have made is.’

Taoiseach on Newstalk

“Believe me, if we had stayed static three years ago and done nothing about it, think of the mess we’d be in now. The plan and the strategy and the sacrifices made by the people have brought us to a stage where we are creating 1,000 jobs a week and stability has returned to the economic situation of the country.

“What people want to see is it translated into their daily lives in their homes every weekend and that’s the challenge of Government. Deal with the housing crisis, deal with the elderly people, deal with the medical situation.

“I recognise all these things. You shouldn’t have to send a letter to somebody asking ‘have you still got motor neuron disease’.

“My commitment to the people is to redouble our efforts to deal with these issues that have not just come to light today but have been around for quite some time. We will deal with the question of discretionary medical cards and you’ll see the results very soon.”

Asked whether this would be too late for the Government parties in terms of being credited at the polling booths, Mr Kenny said: “You don’t look for credit in politics and if you do you’re a fool.

“What we have to do is make the decisions, sort out our country economically, and to deal with the situation where we can give people a life – give them an opportunity to raise their families, to have a job, have an income and the ordinary comforts people would expect.

“These things require difficult decisions and changes to various structures. The people in two years time will judge this Government as to whether we have fulfilled our mandate or not.”

Asked whether under-pressure Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore would survive, he said: “You don’t ask me questions about other parties.

“The Tánaiste and I have a very strong working relationship. He’s the leader of his party. He’s a fundamental part of Government. He’s stepped up to the mark in making very difficult decisions about our country.

“He took this over given a mandate by the people and it’s our intention to fulfil that mandate. They will judge us in two years time on that.”

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