Enda Kenny unleashes his ‘inner eejit’ at the re-opening of the National Gallery, his last official function as Taoiseach.
Second pic from left: National Gallery Chairman Michael Cuss, Enda Kenny, Fine Gael Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys and National Gallery Director Sean Rainbird.
Scenes from inside the Dáil chamber after Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave his resignation speech, followed by speeches about Kenny’s tenure from party leaders and party representatives.
Solidarity TD Ruth Coppinger raised the case highlighted in yesterday’s Irish Times by Kitty Holland.
About how a young pregnant girl, who was at risk of suicide, was sectioned – after she sought an abortion.
Ruth Coppinger: “Taoiseach, honesty in politics is important so I’m not going to engage in fake, back-slapping. I will congratulate you on writing your own speech which I believe you did. I was a bit bemused at you mentioning Michael Davitt, a revolutionary and a socialist but we’ll leave that aside.
“In summing up your legacy, Taoiseach, I could focus on six years on unprecedented austerity, suffered by the many to bail out the few or the massive homeless and health crisis that you’re laving in your wake. Or indeed the crisis in the gardai and in the State.
“But, in the short time I have and the day that’s in it, I’ll pick one issue that sums up completely the type of Ireland that you and the establishment that you’ve so ably represented have bequeathed in the five decades you’ve been in the Dáil. And that is the incarceration, internment and imprisonment of a vulnerable, pregnant teenager, who asked for an abortion and who asked for help.
“And although we know little of the circumstances, we do know this: A pregnant child shouldn’t be forced to have a child. A pregnant child, in legal terms, is a raped child. The pregnant person best knows how they feel about being pregnant. And, Taoiseach, people around the country are comparing this outrage are comparing this to an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.
“Twenty-five years ago, this nation rose up at the incarceration of a teenage rape victim but it’s still happening under your watch because you did nothing to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.
“The much heralded Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act that you and the Labour party boast about has proven impossible for any suicidal person to access an abortion because they’re put through an inquisition. Their feelings are ignored and their rights to bodily and mental autonomy are completely ignored. And this happened last year. We do not know what happened to this girl, whether she succeeded in getting an abortion or whether she was forced to remain pregnant.
“Now Taoiseach, we’ve a history in this country, it’s been mentioned today, of incarcerating pregnant women and girls and we thought that that era was over but many people have been outraged over what they’ve found out over the last 24 hours – that a psychiatrist would have the power, with their own views, to section a girl for the crime of wanting not to be pregnant.
“It seems it’s an illness warranting being locked up, to want an abortion. Not alone that, Taoiseach, but it appears a judge adjudicated and heard this case and awarded a guardian to the girl and, wait for it, her foetus. Now…”
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl: “I don’t want to interfere with any member’s contribution today. But I’m afraid you’re venturing into territory that is completely at odds with the business that’s before us today.”
Coppinger: “With the legacy of the Taoiseach?”
Ó Fearghaíl: “I, you’re talking about a specific case which none of us have full information.”
Coppinger: “Yeah. I, ok, thank you, Ceann Comhairle, I’ll bear that in mind. I’m going by the information that we do have and I’m just generalising now. So, not alone that Taoiseach, a judge adjudicated on the case, as I said. But Taoiseach, you’re going and what I hope is the reactionary policies are going with you. That the backwardness that was visited on young people in this country for so many decades will also go. You’ve had your time, hopefully we’ll have a different time.
“That the yearning there is for a different type of society among young people in particular, can be brought about. And, in finishing Taoiseach, I hope we see a movement now to bring about the separation of Church and Stateand the type of legislation that gives the person involved the right to make this decision for themsevels. And, hopefully, that movement won’t take very long.
“With your new incumbent, we’ll find out but I certainly would encourage people to actively ensure that it happens because we can’t trust the people in this Dail to ensure that these cases don’t happen again.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British Prime Minister Theresa May at a joint press conference after a meeting at Government Buildings in Dublin in January
The British government attempted to block a move by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to insert an Irish unity declaration into the text of an extraordinary summit of EU leaders at the end of April, during which they adopted the EU’s negotiating mandate ahead of the Brexit talks.
The text spelled out that in the event of a future unity referendum in Ireland, as envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland would automatically rejoin the European Union.
However, RTÉ News understands that the British government attempted to get the declaration delayed until after the UK General Election, so as not to damage Theresa May’s chances of victory.
…The so-called unity clause was to be inserted into the minutes of an extraordinary summit meeting in Brussels on 29 April.
However, two days beforehand, Irish officials were subject to what one source described as a sustained diplomatic offensive by Britain to try to block the declaration.
…In the event, Mr Kenny requested the clause, and it was unanimously adopted by the other 26 member states.
During Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s final Leaders’ Questions.
Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly said the manner in which Mr Kenny has handled the scandals concerning the gardaí, former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan’s departure and matters concerning the current Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan will stain his legacy.
She recalled the breath-test fiasco and the meeting of the justice committee, in October 2016, when Ms O’Sullivan repeatedly said:
“I’m not privy to, nor did I approve, nor would I condone any campaign of harassment or any campaign to malign any individual employee.”
Ms Daly said she had seen information showing that, in September 2016, written reports were being sought for Ms O’Sullivan about the alleged bullying and harassment Garda whistleblower Nick Kehoe was enduring.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny was asked about former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank Seán Fitzpatrick being acquitted of furnishing false information to Anglo’s auditors.
The acquittal followed solicitor with the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) Kevin O’Connell admitting that he had destroyed documents relevant to the criminal proceedings against Mr FitzPatrick, among other matters.
During Leaders’ Questions, Mr Kenny said:
“The ODCE is a statutory independent body. Its mother Department, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, has no responsibility or power of enforcement. The ODCE takes its own legal advice. There were gardaí attached to the ODCE in the beginning but they were not involved in the way this case was taken. The judge did point out that the most fundamental error was the way in which they went about taking evidence from the auditors of Anglo Irish Bank, who were both from the firm of accountants involved.
He said that it was intended that their statements would be taken in the normal way by members of the Garda Síochána who were then attached to the ODCE. Instead, however, the statements were obtained through solicitors from a legal firm.
The ODCE pointed out that it has now undergone substantial organisational change and that it was simply not equipped to undertake parallel investigations on the scale involved. I want to say this: I have not spent the past six years as head of Government and making very difficult decisions only to hear again now the allegation in respect of white-collar crime that people can walk away, that nobody is guilty and that nothing is being done about it.
“Let us, as a Parliament, decide what we must do with an organisation like the ODCE. I can confirm that when the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, had responsibility for jobs, requests by the ODCE to his then Department for resources were granted. Now I find that the ODCE says it was simply not equipped to take parallel investigations on the scale involved.
“I can confirm that the Minister has asked the Director of Corporate Enforcement for a full report, including on the role of all professionals involved in this case. That report will cover the issues involved since 2008 when this case commenced – almost ten years ago. Nothing is ruled out.
“When Deputy Catherine Murphy had her full group, she put forward a proposition for a statutory standing body in the Dáil to deal with matters of corruption and so on.”
“The Minister will bring this before Government in due course. The Government will consider it next week, but I want the Minister to carry out an absolute review of what happened. It is not good enough.”
Enda Kenny will receive a lump sum payment of €378,000 and an annual pension of €126,000 The figures would bring the outgoing Taoiseach’s pension pot to over €2m.
On the issue of pensions, we must acknowledge that the average level of public pension in this State is €23,000. By January 1, 2018, anybody earning a pension below €32,400 will see the public service pension reduction eliminated. There are no princes or princesses in our party. We are a party that represents all levels of society, those with and those without.”
Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe in the Dáil last night
Taoiseach Enda Kenny carrying Lexi McKeon (7 months) and, to their left, Simon Harris (32 years), Health Minister, help launch the Healthy Ireland Network, which aims to boost “the national movement for health and wellbeing”.
You and I may believe the problems facing this country are legion but we must accept that these were none of his concern.
All the ills and injustice deepened by his policies are not error or oversight but perfectly desirable features of how Enda Kenny believes the world should work.
You have to look very hard to find any measure imposed by the Troika that Fine Gael would disagree with. Every incarnation of the party dating back to independence and before has shown contempt for the vast majority of Irish people in the interest of the wealth and privilege they represent.
Rather than some so heroic fight to bring the country back from the brink, the bailout provided perfect cover to remake Ireland in their own warped image.
“The best small country in the world in which to do business” – that was the extent of his vision for Ireland. A modest ambition for a country that never had any issue in facilitating the needs of capital.
If anything, it was already too easy to do business in Ireland provided your business was finance, property or farming exports.
Kenny’s very first outing as Taoiseach was a conference of the Irish Funds Industry Association where he gave the keynote address. The main takeaway from that speech as noted on the lobby group’s website was the prime minister assuring financial services that his “door is always open”.
Not so for those at the sharp end. You needn’t have me repeat here that list in full. Soaring house prices, rents, debts and suicides. Decimated public services, deliberate rural decline, etc. Nor need we run through every twist a turn of his six year premiership because we’ve each witnessed it.
There is little point raising these facts now as he prepares to step down. Long prepared newspaper supplements and well rehearsed media punditry will do the usual routine with no one remarking that Enda Kenny leaves politics having fulfilled exactly the job he had to do. A sycophant in Europe and puppet at home was all in a days work. Housing crises, desperate lone parents and crooked cops have no baring on his record.
Commentary will instead commend him as a ‘canny operator’. He will be lauded for hanging on in spite of increasingly grotesque scandals exposing the dark heart of this country, whatever of the casualties.
Enda Kenny survived.
Just as the regime he led continues to exploit, demean and prosper for it. It may be cruel. It may be shambolic. But we cannot judge his role in it as other than a success.
“As leader of Fine Gael, Enda Kenny has been a towering figure in modern Irish history and will be recognised as such over the coming days, weeks, months and years. When Enda took over the leadership of our party we were broken and demoralised.
With his vision, determination, positivity and relentless work-rate, he led our party back from defeat and to sustained electoral success, culminating in victory in the 2011 General Election and a record result for our party.
I am proud to have served in Opposition and then in Government with Enda. I saw at close quarters how skilled and driven he was to succeed for our party, in Government and for our country. His record in Government since 2011 will be viewed very positively by historians, not least how he led the restoration of our economic financial independence over that period, which was a landmark event.
But it is not just these high-profile moments that I reflect on, I recall the energy and excitement of a number of elections campaigns – any day on the campaign trail with Enda was a lively one; or those early days in Government when the economy teetered on the brink and Enda’s calm and clear-headed leadership helped guide us through, or the late nights and long hours trying to construct a new coalition Government in 2016.
It has been an honour to serve with Enda Kenny for almost 20 years now and I wish him, Fionnuala, Aoibhinn, Ferdia and Naoise the very best in the future.”
A statement released by Fine Gael TD and Minister for Housing Simon Coveney this evening.