Fion­nu­ala must take some of the credit for Enda’s rise

Bray People - - OPINION - Yates

RAT­INGS AGEN­CIES pro­vided con­tin­ual com­men­tary of down­grades on our eco­nomic sta­tus. A credit up­grade has been earned by Enda Kenny. Since Jan­uary 2001, when he un­suc­cess­fully chal­lenged for Fine Gael lead­er­ship, he has in­cre­men­tally im­proved. Hav­ing shared a Dáil of­fice with him, as gov­ern­ment back­benchers, in the early 1980s, his pleas­ant de­meanour char­ac­terised an al­most care­free attitude, lack­ing am­bi­tion. His trans­for­ma­tion is com­plete as Taoiseach.

This late ma­tur­ing de­vel­op­ment must be at­trib­uted to in­flu­ences of his wife Fion­nu­ala. Her back­ground as a press of­fi­cer for Char­lie Haughey and Fianna Fáil is well known. I can ad­mit to be­ing in Donoghue’s pub the first night they went to­gether. Her po­lit­i­cal in­stincts, in­tu­ition and judge­ment have guided Enda’s as­cent to the sum­mit of gov­ern­ment. He has vis­i­bly at­tained self as­sur­ance and in­ner con­fi­dence over re­cent months. Noth­ing suc­ceeds like suc­cess. FG’s tally of 76 seats shat­ters Gar­ret Fitzger­ald’s pre­vi­ous record of 70. Along with for­mer col­leagues of Kenny, I have had to re­vise up­wards my as­sess­ment of his abil­i­ties.

The coun­try is in cri­sis. The cabi­net will in­evitably be­come be­sieged and be­set with ac­cu­sa­tions of U-turns. Kenny’s tem­per­a­ment will be cru­cial to main­tain­ing a steady course to­wards re­cov­ery. His style of chair­man­ship? Meet­ings do not run on end­lessly. De­ci­sions are reached and recorded. He should be un­der no il­lu­sion about what lies ahead. Brian Cowen’s fi­nal caveat as Taoiseach, de­scribed the ebb and flow of me­dia and pub­lic opin­ion. Sunny Clara cel­e­bra­tions on his vic­to­ri­ous con­stituency re­turn in 2008 are a dis­tant mem­ory. To­day a hero, to­mor­row hu­mil­i­a­tion.

Ea­mon Gil­more is in the crosshairs of me­dia fo­cus, hav­ing had a dif­fi­cult cam­paign. “Labour’s way or Frank­furt’s way” was a gaffe, not re­peat­able as Min­is­ter for For­eign Af­fairs. The propo­si­tion ‘Gil­more for Taoiseach’ bombed, end­ing up im­plor­ing vot­ers to be Tá­naiste. Ru­mours re­ver­ber­ate about his han­dling of Labour cabi­net ap­point­ments. Un­ver­i­fi­able spec­u­la­tion in­cludes strops by Ruairi Quinn (at be­ing ex­cluded), Joan Bur­ton (for fail­ing to get Fi­nance) and Wil­lie Pen­rose (for only be­ing of­fered a Su­per Ju­nior Min­istry). Any of these un­der­mine the Tá­naiste’s au­thor­ity. His de­ci­sion to opt for ex­ter­nal safety in Iveagh House in­di­cates du­bi­ous courage.

An in­no­va­tive ap­proach has been taken to the re­struc­tur­ing of de­part­ments. Adding Trade to our diplo­matic corps should give a com­mer­cial fo­cus to con­sular ser­vices. Com­bin­ing Min­istries of Jus­tice and De­fence makes sense – bring­ing all se­cu­rity forces to­gether and mak­ing the army more rel­e­vant. Tourism and Trans­port should al­ways have co-ex­isted.

As an is­land nation, ac­cess by air or sea trans­port is a ba­sic pre­req­ui­site to at­tain­ing visi­tor tar­gets. A sep­a­rate Depart­ment of Pub­lic Ser­vice Re­form was her­alded in op­po­si­tion. How­ever, split­ting of Fi­nance func­tions be­tween tax and ex­pen­di­ture could paral­yse. There is only one CFO in a cor­po­rate en­tity. Bren­dan Howlin’s and Labour’s ap­petite for cost re­duc­tion will be the sin­gle most defin­ing fea­ture of suc­cess or other­wise of this ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Lack of gen­der or ge­o­graph­i­cal bal­ance was par­tially rec­ti­fied in the ap­point­ment of 15 Ju­nior Min­is­ters, de­spite prom­ises of only 12 ap­pointees at lower rank. Mean­while spare a thought for FG and Labour back­benchers who are TDs for more than twenty years. Af­ter 14 bar­ren years in Op­po­si­tion, many brought in a run­ning mate on polling day. All har­boured pri­vate hopes of prefer­ment. Their dis­ap­point­ment is pro­found and bit­ter. This is the Gov­ern­ment’s Achilles heel. Two pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments with land­slide ma­jori­ties, Jack Lynch in 1977 and Al­bert Reynolds’ FF/Lab 1992, im­ploded. Both lead­ers were van­quished in less than three years. Hell hath no fury like a jilted back­bencher. Kenny and Gil­more must watch their backs.

IR­ISH IDEN­TITY CRI­SIS

St. Pa­trick’s Day re­quires re­flec­tion on the mod­ern def­i­ni­tion of Ir­ish­ness in 2011. For­mer pil­lars of so­ci­ety, Catholic Church and Fianna and streets are full of dif­fer­ent lan­guages. Half of new jobs cre­ated in soft­ware cor­po­rate gi­ants are held by for­eign­ers. These fam­i­lies as­pire to be and are Ir­ish.

The gen­eral elec­tion and pol­i­tics are rightly con­sumed with eco­nom­ics. The re­main­ing elec­toral battle later this year is the Pres­i­dency. This post is a non-ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship role – per­son­al­ity rather than power. The per­son and strat­egy that suc­ceeds needs to write a nar­ra­tive that en­cap­su­lates the best of our past and de­fines our fu­ture – an all en­com­pass­ing and em­brac­ing in­clu­sive credo. Enda Kenny’s script writers have tried to sieze a sense of Ir­ish­ness. Pad­dy­whack­ery and sham­rock­ery is quaint but re­dun­dant. Cre­ative lead­er­ship will fill that void.

Kenny’s tem­per­a­ment will be cru­cial to main­tain­ing a steady course to re­cov­ery

Fáil have been pushed to the mar­gins. Ir­ish cul­ture of lan­guage, Gaelic games and lit­er­a­ture don’t rep­re­sent res­o­nances of a new gen­er­a­tion. Justin Bieber, Manch­ester United and Corona­tion Street have a greater affin­ity with peo­ple than Céili dancing, Sham­rock Rovers and Ros na Rún (where they can’t kill off char­ac­ters be­cause of lack of flu­ent gael­góir ac­tors).

Pa­trick Street, Cork and Dun­drum shop­ping cen­tre are mir­ror im­ages of the high street in Birm­ing­ham, Manch­ester, Belfast or Glas­gow. Re­tail glob­al­i­sa­tion and brand­ing feed mod­ern con­sumerism. We need a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion about our Ir­ish iden­tity cri­sis. Pace of so­cial at­ti­tu­di­nal changes is driven by tech­nol­ogy. Face­book, Twit­ter and text lan­guage are re­plac­ing weekly chats out­side church gates or in the pub. Old cer­tain­ties, based on post colo­nial prej­u­dices, are fad­ing. We be­lieved ma­te­ri­al­ism could sup­plant these tra­di­tions.

A big­ger con­ser­va­tory, larger car, more ex­otic hol­i­days and beauty treat­ments were driv­ing forces of de­sire. Death of the Celtic Tiger has evap­o­rated these merce­nary dreams. The elec­tion marks the end of the anger phase. A sense of be­reave­ment and loss will en­sue. What will fol­low? BBC/RTE’s ‘Story of Ire­land’, with Fer­gal Keane, chron­i­cles our his­tory of be­ing in­vaded. Early mis­sion­ar­ies, Nor­mans, Vik­ings, feu­dal chief­tains and the Bri­tish have all left in­deli­ble marks on Ir­ish DNA. Our cur­rent pop­u­la­tion com­prises waves of re­cent set­tled im­mi­grants. Gym­na­si­ums, restau­rants

CHEL­TENHAM 2011

Here at last, four days of the most awe­some horserac­ing fes­ti­val. A bet­ting bonanza of £500ml. Rac­ing le­gends writ­ing new chap­ters of equine his­tory. Key in­gre­di­ent to tip­ping win­ners? Past form in the Cotswolds. The track with un­du­la­tions, con­stant left turns and steep up­hill fin­ish is unique. Not all horses pro­duce their best here, rely on proven course win­ners.

My ‘Magnificent Seven’: Tues­day: Cue Card @ 9/4, Supreme Novices Hur­dle – win­ner of Cham­pion Bumper, top rated. Quevega @ 1/1, David Ni­chol­son Mares Hur­dle – easy win­ner of this race past two years.

Wed­nes­day: Time For Ru­pert @ 9/4, RSA Novices’ Chase – high class staying hur­dler, prov­ing more ef­fec­tive over larger ob­sta­cles. Ti­tan de Sarti @ 8/1, Fred Win­ter Hand­i­cap Hur­dle – dark horse to draw for Nicky Hen­der­son.

Thurs­day: Big Bucks @ 11/8, World Hur­dle – un­beaten in ten hur­dle races, in line for hat­trick, bombproof banker of the week.

Fri­day: Im­pe­rial Com­man­der @ 7/2, Gold Cup – lo­cally trained, great value to re­peat last year’s tri­umph. Baby Run @ 3/1, Fox­hunter’s Chase – re­tains all his old abil­ity, can com­plete encore.

Chel­tenham’s thrills, spills, pas­sion and ex­cite­ment must be savoured – even if you have to pull a sickie. As Dustin says, ‘Get in there you good thing’

St. Pa­trick’s Day re­quires re­flec­tion on the mod­ern def­i­ni­tion of Ir­ish­ness in 2011.

Lack of gen­der or ge­o­graph­i­cal bal­ance was par­tially rec­ti­fied in the ap­point­ment of 15 Ju­nior Min­is­ters, de­spite prom­ises of only 12 ap­pointees at lower rank.

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