Civil service re-energised by style of our new Taoiseach
EVERYONE IS saying that Enda Kenny is off to a flying start as Taoiseach. Certainly with both the British monarch and the US president visiting Ireland in May, he has given Irish Tourism and everyone’s confidence a huge boost. Won’t it be fantastic to see Ireland back on the front pages of the international press, and on global TV, with people celebrating the welcome for these very special guests rather than talking about our busted banks?
But actually what Enda Kenny’s new Government has demonstrated is that the outgoing administration of Fianna Fáil and the Green Party had just given up, after underperforming for two whole years. In fairness they may have been simply overwhelmed by the scale of our economic crisis. And that affected the top Civil Servants in the Government Departments, causing a lethargy and hopelessness to set in.
There is now a very different response from those same civil servants. They are re-energised and maybe think that this Fine Gael and Labour coalition actually believe they can solve our crisis. That has been enough to spark a whole new approach and vitality.
Most of this is down to one man - Enda Kenny. I predict that the national media are going to be hugely embarrassed over the next few months, because for the last few years and more they have been telling us that Enda Kenny was not a worthy contender as Taoiseach.
As we all get to know Enda Kenny better, we are going to like him more and more. True leadership is an elegance of conduct. And that’s what best sums up the man from Mayo. Let me give you an example. The day Enda Kenny was elected Taoiseach, March 9th last, Dáil Éireann was organised and marshalled like it had never been before. Barriers were brought in for crowd control and it was all conducted with military precision.
Ask yourself this question. Why did the Captain of the Guard, the Superintendent, and the Ushers at Leinster House make such a big effort for this day? Remember they have to be apolitical, that is, show no favour to one deputy or party over another.
They did it for two reasons. Firstly they really like, or more correctly, have a great personal regard for Enda Kenny. After all, many of them have worked with him for 36 years. They knew him as man and boy in the house and they were happy to see him, after his long graft, become Taoiseach. Secondly they knew that Enda likes things to be organised and to run properly. Put simply, it was easy to make the effort because they knew Enda would appreciate it.
Enda is also a very quick learner. Following his survival after Richard Bruton’s heave against him in 2010, he observed that a well intentioned Kenny supporter shouting “Up Mayo” made him appear country and western, and parochial. That would not be allowed to happen again.
Compare all this to the 7th of May 2008, the day Brian Cowen was elected Taoiseach. There were no barriers and no major effort made because the Ushers also knew Brian Cowen of old. They would have known that at the very last moment the plans were liable to change.
The difference is that Cowen had no time for ‘ceremonial craic’ while Kenny demonstrates elegance of conduct
Brian might suddenly use the Merrion Square door instead of the Kildare Street entrance, saying to himself , ‘Now the feckin’ media will be out there on the plinth, and I’ll have to answer their asinine questions’.
Now, I stress, this is all supposition and may be unfair to Brian Cowen but the difference between the two is that Brian had no time for all this “ceremonial craic” whereas Enda Kenny consistently demonstrates an elegance of conduct.
When Brian went to Clara he pulled his rotund figure up onto the back of a trailer and sang a song for his supporters. Enda Kenny did not rush to Castlebar. His first priority was the EU and so he set aside a full 24 hours to be briefed ahead of attending his first EU Heads of State meeting. This also gave adequate time to properly organise the home coming event in Castlebar. There would be no triumphalism, he said, just an acknowledgement and appreciation to all who had worked so hard to create history electing four Fine Gael TDs in Mayo. The event in the Traveller’s Friend theatre again was superbly organised.
Enda Kenny and Brian Cowen are chalk and cheese. Because Enda believes things must not only be right, they must be seen to be right, he places great emphasis on presentation. Brian Cowen believed it should be all substance not style - except that his substance led to the IMF bailout. Because Brian was never concerned about optics he allowed 15 limousines pull up outside Farmleigh to discuss our budget deficit. Enda’s cabinet took a bus to the Aras.
And so last week, when virtually every national newspaper carried photographs of Enda Kenny and Barack Obama splashed across their front pages, we saw two hand- some, lean, fit, energetic men shaking hands, and the former confirming he would visit Ireland in May.
Yes I hate to admit it, but it is all about optics. So we can look forward to the visit of the British Monarch and the US President confident that it will be superbly organised and we the people will be ably represented through our new Taoiseach. As regards Tourism and its badly needed money flowing into our economy, Enda Kenny has not just said “Ireland is open for business” he is helping to make it happen.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny in his office at Government Buildings. His election as Taiseach has been enough to spark vitality across the government departments.
When virtually every national newspaper carried photographs of Enda Kenny and Barack Obama splashed across their front pages, we saw two lean, fit, energetic men shaking hands, and the former confirming he would visit Ireland in May.
We can look forward to the visit of the British Monarch confident that it will be superbly organised and we the people will be ably represented through our new Taoiseach.