We’ll Miss Him (Eventually)

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endaderek

From top: Taoiseach Enda Kenny; Derek Mooney

“But as I leave you I want you to know – just think how much you’re going to be missing. You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore”

With these words, Richard Nixon departed the political scene, well almost. It was November 7th, 1962. He was concluding what he assumed would be his last ever political press conference after losing the race to become Governor of California. Two years earlier he had narrowly lost the Presidency to John F Kennedy.

While Enda Kenny’s departure, when it comes – possibly over the next week or two – will not be as bitter and waspish as Tricky Dicky’s, there may just be the slightest hint of the same sentiment: just think what we will potentially be missing.
Love him or loathe him, during his time as Taoiseach Enda has been anything but colourless or bland. For all his faults and failings, he showed quickly that he realised that one of the main roles of any Taoiseach is re-assuring the public that there is someone with a plan in charge.

He also grasped that this role as the nation’s re-assurer-in-chief requires you to get out and about and meet people as much as possible. In some ways, Enda has spent the past six years doing a passable Bertie Ahern impression.

Nonetheless, it is where we saw Enda at his best. When you meet him in person, either in a one to one chat or as part of an audience, you realise that Enda genuinely enjoys pressing the flesh.He possesses an ebullient personality, unlike either of his two possible successors, and so he comes across as warm and engaging when encountered personally.

This natural ability and skill was also a potential liability. His desire to have something to say to everyone and to do it spontaneously could lead to problems – as our greatest ever Taoiseach, Sean Lemass, famously observed – the danger with such off-the-cuff utterances is “not the little too little, it’s the little too much”.

Hence Enda’s occasional problems with the actualité. We saw it again last week in Canada when he misremembered discussions about human rights in Saudi Arabia and ended up recounting what he now wished he had said, rather than what he had actually said when sitting with the Princes.

One way his team of advisers had come up with to try to curb Enda’s effusive tendencies was to try to keep him to a script. It worked, but only to a certain extent. If they truly wanted him to him under control then all they had to do was to turn on a camera on.

Nothing was more guaranteed to make him appear wooden and staid than a TV camera. Whereas many senior politicians only truly come to life when the lights switch on and the cameras start rolling, Enda was the opposite. He shifted down the gears. Gone was the bonhomie and the spontaneity and in its place a stiffness of both language and style.

It partly explains why he did not like formal TV debates. It was not his strong suit. But this was not just because of the cameras, it was more than that. Enda is not a details man. Nor is he adept at recalling long tracts of script or prepared lines.

This was clear in his head to head party leaders debate with Bertie Ahern in the May 2007 election. During the pre-debate spin Fine Gael had so reduced the expectations for their man that all he had to do was show up and not set the desk on fire for them to claim a draw.

On the night, many pundits were in awe of Enda as he seemed to hold his own for about the first twenty minutes of the encounter. I recall a senior party colleague calling me about fifteen minutes into the exchange concerned that Enda was doing so well, but their worry was short lived.

By the twenty-minute mark Enda was starting to flag, he was running out of rehearsed material. Meanwhile Bertie, who absorbs and retains facts and figures, was just getting into his stride and used the remaining sixty minutes to leave Enda behind.

Another four years in opposition, including a failed heave against him, and a further six years as Taoiseach has improved Enda’s speech giving ability considerably. He delivered one of his best ever speeches in Canada last week. It was considered and reflective and included a section on the concept of “othering” that I mentioned here in a recent article saying:

“It is happening to the degree that the old battles of right and left might well be over, to be replaced by something that seeks, not to unite us, but to divide us, not only among ourselves, but from what they identify and objectify as the Other. They see the people not for who they are as individuals, but as what they are as an ethnic or faith or economic group.”

It was a well written speech, delivered extremely well. At several junctures, he seemed not to be reading it from a script, but rather delivering it extemporaneously. What just about stopped it from being a perfect speech, was the inclusion of the oft made, but inaccurate, claim that his government achieved the whole recovery by itself – conveniently omitting the reality that two thirds of the correctives had been made by the time he arrived in office, but old habits die hard, I suppose.

In a few week’s (or months) time I will miss having Enda to kick around. I may have a few others to miss too from around the Cabinet table. Instead I will have to focus on the possible successors: Simon, the Enda 2.0 or Leo, the anti-Enda.

Remarkably, both come to the threshold of high office with considerably more ministerial experience than Enda did when he won the leadership. But while both have many years more time spent around the Cabinet table, they come without Enda’s experience of political hard knocks. Their political paths have been charmed and uneventful, well they have certainly been devoid of any great track record or achievement.

Both will doubtless enjoy a political honeymoon and may even feel tempted to capitalise on it with a snap election – whether they will have that opportunity may well be determined by just how down and dirty the race to succeed Enda gets and how much damage will have to be repaired before facing out to meet the voters.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant. He previously served as a Ministerial Adviser to the Fianna Fáil-led government 2004 – 2010. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney

29 thoughts on “We’ll Miss Him (Eventually)

  1. Lord Snowflakee

    Do I really have to read this crap?

    Can someone give me a top level summary please?

    1. bisted

      …the kind of eulogy to Enda that you’d expect from an FFer…a tedious chronology with a few barbs thrown in…

  2. hawkeyed

    ” and a further sex years as Taoiseach has improved Enda’s speech giving ability considerably” . Good grief. BS does porn .

    1. Adama

      So the idiot who practices in front of a mirror and then regurgitates a speech full of meaningless platitudes in front of a captive audience impresses the writer? If he had written the piffle himself then I might agree. But his only contribution would seem to be walking over to the printer and collecting it. Can’t wait to see the back of this inept primary school teacher and his shaky and witless grasp of reality.

      That said neither of the book-ends elbowing each other in the face for media attention have anything to offer. One is a media-savvy sociopath and the other is a sociopathic media savant.

  3. Brother Barnabas

    Curious to see if Varadkar’s sexuality becomes an issue? Two years ago it looked like Ireland had turned the corner and was moving on; last few months have made it seem we haven’t budged an inch.

    1. JIMMYJAMES

      nah, so long as leo doesn’t confuse the animosity people already have for him while not yet elected & that which will develop in the wake of his policies, with those of your average homophobe

      1. Sheik Yahbouti

        I detest Leo for being Leo. His sexuality doesn’t enter into it. (BTW I detest Coveney even more!)

        1. Brother Barnabas

          I’d say I’d dislike them both equally, but I think varadkar would be a far, far better choice for FG. I’ve a feeling though they’ll go for Coveney because of Varadkar’s sexuality.

          1. hawkeyed

            Dear FG,

            Simon The Undertaker Coveney took the fourth seat in Cork South Central .Varadkar topped the poll in Dublin West .

            I enclose an invoice for stating the obvious.

            Yours
            #not a blueshirt but always see red

      1. Brother Barnabas

        I wouldn’t care much for his political views, but he’s not an idiot

        1. Owen

          Fair point. I retract my comment and replace it with…..

          “His sexuality?? What about the fact he is intelligent yet still a complete political idiot?

          1. Brother Barnabas

            He’s arguably a lady’s secret garden, but he’s a politically savvy one (in my opinion)

          2. Owen

            OK, right, lets try this again….

            “His sexuality?? What about the fact he is an intelligent ladies secret garden, but still a complete political idiot, albeit somewhat savvy on occasion!?”

  4. Brendan

    Ibble obble chocolate bobble ibble obble out.
    With these words, Richard Nixon departed the political scene, well almost.

  5. joak joke jik

    key q. for Derek – will FF actually stomach Varadkar or Coveney as Taoiseach? and for how long?

  6. JIMMYJAMES

    “Enda is not a details man ” … your havn a f’giraffe.

    Sooner their generation is dead & gone, the unmetered parish pumps be ripped from their roots, & pensions revoked, the better.

  7. realPolithicks

    “We’ll Miss Him (Eventually)”

    How can you miss him if he won’t go away?

    1. Sheik Yahbouti

      Real, yours is the winning comment – please accept the two pints that were in some guy’s hand, somewhere.

  8. Sheik Yahbouti

    I echo the sentiments of the young lady in an article above this – “Are you High?”

  9. ollie

    An article praising Kenny’s verbal skills followed by an article where he is found out lying again!

    Praise TAosieach, get licence fee increase.

  10. Ron

    History will remember Kenny as the most hated Taoiseach, much to the delight of Brian Cowan.

  11. Otis Blue

    Kenny was our Dubya. Really says something that his blandness can be seen as a virtue. Good riddance to the fool.

    As for tweedledum and tweedledee? I couldn’t care less.

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