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.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin raised the National Maternity Hospital with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
From their exchange:
Micheál Martin: “Can you confirm that that hospital group [St Vincent’s Hospital Group] and the Sisters of Charity will not have a majority on the board? And, above all, will you ensure that the State, the taxpayer, will own this hospital and will have its investment reflected in it? As a bottom line, given the investment it is taking?”
Enda Kenny: “Yes, I can, I can confirm that there will be complete clinical independence. I can confirm that the Sisters of Charity will not have majority of the board and, in relation of ownership, this is a matter that requires some, some consideration…”
From top: Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy; Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald; Taoiseach Enda Kenny; Fine Gael TD and Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor
Further to reported allegations that IDA Ireland has blocked more than 50 potential job creators from accessing a cash reward via Connect Ireland – an initiative that came out of the Global Irish Economic Forum in 2011- for introducing foreign firms to invest in Ireland…
Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy raised the issue with Taoiseach Enda Kenny during Leaders’ Questions this afternoon – and in his response Mr Kenny once again said he was accused of clogging up the roads in Cork for all the jobs he’s created.
He made this jobs/traffic claim during Leaders’ Questions on February 21 and during the Friends of Ireland lunch with US president Donald Trump at Capitol Hill, Washington last week.
From Ms Murphy and Mr Kenny’s exchange…
Catherine Murphy: “Taoiseach, during Priority Questions, to Minster Mitchell O’Connor back in February, I asked about the anomalies emerging between IDA and Connect Ireland. There’d been a number of articles in the Sunday Business Post, which cause me to question what had actually transpired between the two agencies and if this is likely to result in the State, in a cost to the State, because of the disagreement.”
“A reply to me, the minister told me that she couldn’t go into detail because there was an ongoing legal dispute between the parties. Yesterday, the jobs committee heard allegations that Connect Ireland were possibly stymied in creating jobs in what sounds essentially like a turf war.”
“On the other side, IDA have noted that Connect Ireland failed to, by a long shot, to reach the target set in the number of jobs created, or the scheme was set to create. Whichever side is correct, the fact remains that there is a significant and fundamental difference between the jobs numbers claimed by both the IDA and Connect Ireland.”
“A Morning Ireland report today told us that the verification process used by the IDA to ascertain whether a connector would be due a payment until the scheme refused a significant number of connections yet, on a review, a third of these were overturned. This suggests a serious issue with the verification process used by the IDA.”
“The core issue here, Taoiseach, is that there’s potentially, there were potentially jobs lost to Ireland. And if this is the case the reasons for that must be made clear. An important element of this is the potential repetitional damage caused. Imagine from the point of view of someone who wanted to invest, when there’s two State agencies essentially almost in dispute with each other. And look at the confusion that would create. The issue is time sensitive in that the contract expires this coming Sunday. And, clearly, these issues must be satisfactorily addressed not just behind closed doors, before any new contract is entered into or, indeed, this one is cancelled.”
“So my questions are: why is there such a fundamental difference between the IDA and Connect Ireland regarding the jobs numbers? Who is nearer to the truth here? And, if it transpires that Connect Ireland are the ones telling the truth, how much will the IDA, using in public money, have to fork out in compensation?”
“Is that figure likely to be in the many millions? As has been reported in the many media – with figures of around €14million circulating. And will it be the IDA or the Department that would be the ones called to pay out the compensation if that was the case and has any amount been factored into either of their budgets? for this”
Enda Kenny: “Well, I think the first thing I should say is that I’m quite sure that you welcome the improvement in the numbers of people working in the country. Unemployment has called from 15.2 to 6.6 with over two million-plus people now working in Ireland, spread throughout the region where every sector is growing.”
“In fact, I was accused in Cork recently of being responsible for clogging up the roads with people going to work which I suppose is a challenge, a challenge of success. I might say, I was interested in this initially, Deputy Murphy, because this was born out of an initiative that came from the 2011 Global Irish Economic Forum with the aim of involving global diaspora in job creation here when things were very, very bad…”
“There are three issues here. One is the legal issue, which I can’t comment on, and that’s in respect of the financial situation. The second is: what were the number of jobs and what are the number of jobs that were created by the ambassadors and by the connectors of Connect Ireland and thirdly, what is the position now? Well. This was a four-year scheme, it was extended after contact was made with Government for a further 12 months and that runs out on Monday…”
“Jobs are jobs and when we had none, we were very lucky to get any kind of jobs in here… I can’t comment on the court case but I will look forward to seeing Minister O’Connor’s review of this and that’s difficult given that there is a litigation at the moment…”
Murphy: “First of all Taoiseach, can I just say that your reply was a disgrace. It’s very disingenuous to question whether or I or others support jobs: of course we support investment in jobs in this country. I know what the Succeed in Ireland programme is about and I think most people in this house know what the Succeed in Ireland programme is about. I asked you very specific questions and I believe I’m entitled to a response to those.”
From top: Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaking in Capitol Hill last Thursday; former High Court judge Bryan McMahon
You may recall how Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave a speech in the presence of US President Donald Trump at a Friends of Ireland lunch in Capitol Hill, Washington last Thursday, concerning the estimated 50,000 Irish who are living in the United States illegally.
The speech prompted an article in The New York Times headlined, ‘Irish Premier Uses St Patrick’s Day Ritual to Lecture Trump on Immigration’.
At the beginning of his speech, Mr Kenny mentioned that he would be presenting a miniature replica of Arrival, a bronze sculpture of a famine ship by John Behan, to Mr Trump.
In 2000, the then Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Bertie Ahern unveiled the original 26-foot by 26-foot Arrival at the UN headquarters in New York.
“This sculpture celebrates the Irish people who traveled the world in search of a new life and all the nations and countries which welcomed them and offered them a chance for that better life.”
During the speech, Mr Kenny said:
I haven’t had the opportunity to present you with a particular piece of sculpture which is entitled “Arrival,” by John Behan. It’s a miniature — but it’s quite large — of what stands at the United Nations in New York of the tale and the story and the history of Irish immigrants after the famine years.
… I just want to say, I had a very good meeting this morning with the Vice President and with General John Kelly. Sitting at the table, we were hosted by the Vice President in the traditional breakfast in the Naval Observatory. Didn’t get much chance to eat the breakfast, I have to say; it’s one of the difficulties in politics — it’s in front of you but you can’t get near it. We did discuss the question of immigration, which is so important to the fabric of our people. And I know that in this country, this is an issue that the administration and the President are reflecting upon. And that’s something that, again, we will work with you diligently in this regard in the two sectors that we used to have a facility for E3 visas for young people who want to come to America and to work here. We discussed that very constructively this morning.
And secondly, as a part of the overall immigration reform that the Irish have contributed so much, it would be part of that. And we look forward to the works that will take place at the time ahead.
You might say that when Mike Pence’s grandfather landed here in Ellis Island in 1923, that the contribution had been made by so many Irish for so many years. It was in 1771 that the friendly Sons of St. Patrick were put together in Philadelphia, and one of their first honorary members was a young man called George Washington.
And seven years later, he handed the first commission to a naval officer called John Barry, who was co-founder of the American Navy. And he was joined later by John Holland, who designed the first submarine. And he was followed by Louis Brennan, from my hometown, who had a major impact on the navigation systems for torpedoes.
And so many others, from Henry Ford, through music and culture, and so many other areas, that 22 members of the American Presidents who sat in the White House had either Scots or Irish blood in them. And you follow in that line, sir. And I’d just like to say in finality, this is what I said to your predecessor on a number of occasions: We would like this to be sorted. It would remove a burden of so many people that they can stand out in the light and say, now I am free to contribute to America as I know I can. And that’s what people want.
I know you’ll reflect on this, but I’m always struck by the American National Anthem when it’s sung before the great occasions. And I suppose being an emotional Irishman, the hairs tingle at the back of your neck when you hear your own national anthem.
But for us, when Old Glory waves, and you put your hand on your heart and you say, “The land of the free and the home of the brave,” ours is still as brave as ever, but maybe not as free. Because of the 4,000 Congressional Medals of Honor given out to the defense forces, over 2,000 go to the Irish Americans. So they fought in the Revolutionary War. They beat the daylights out of each other in Fredericksburg and Gettysburg and Yorktown, and other places, in Atlanta. They fought every war for America and died for America — and will continue to do so. All they want is the opportunity to be free.
And this administration, working with Democrats and Republicans, I hope, can sort this out once and for all. And for future years, you determine what it is that you want to do. As George Mitchell said last evening, you can’t return to open immigration, but for the people who are here — who should be here, might be here — that’s an issue that I’m sure your administration will reflect on. And we in Ireland will give you every assistance in that regard. There are millions out there who want to play their part for America — if you like, who want to make America great. Heard it before? Heard that before?
Further to this…
Readers may recall there are an estimated 20,000-26,000 undocumented migrants living and working in Ireland.
In addition, readers may recall how Direct Provision is the system by which asylum seekers are accommodated in Ireland and it is overlooked by the Reception Integration Agency. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work or go to college while the majority of people living in Direct Provision have no facility to cook their own food.
Adults receive €19.10 per week while children receive €15.60 per week.
In April 2016, retired Judge Bryan McMahon spoke at an event in the Jesuit Refugee Service.
Criticising the length of time asylum seekers have to live in direct provision, Mr McMahon called for a blanket, one-off amnesty for the 3,500 people who had been in direct provision for more than five years – in the spirit of 1916.
“That would be a great start, in my view, just to take the 3,500 people and say, ‘it’s not going to happen again, it’s a one-off and it’s a gesture to 1916 and the men in the GPO’. No one, in my view, would object, that’s my instinct on it and, in fact, au contraire, most people would applaud us for doing something like that.”
The junior justice minister David Stanton, of Fine Gael, subsequently ruled out the idea.
Graphs from the Reception Integration Agency report for January 2017
Some details pertaining to asylum seekers in Ireland…
According to the most recent report from the Reception Integration Agency, as of January 29, 2017, 57,644 people seeking asylum in Ireland have been accommodated in direct provision centres since April 10, 2000 – the year direct provision was set up as an interim measure.
This figure of 57,644 does not include the 2,838 unaccompanied minors – children who have arrived in the country without a parent or guardian – who have sought asylum over the same period.
Between 2000 and 2010, 513 separated children went missing from State care and 440 were still unaccounted for in 2011.
In 2009 – when, as of 2008, 454 separated children had gone missing and just 58 were subsequently accounted for – in a report on separated children, the Ombudsman for Children wrote:
“This large number of missing children is alarming as is the apparent lack of further investigation into incidents.”
A mechanism to allow asylum seekers make formal written complaints about the centres was only introduced by the Department of Justice in 2011 but it has been criticised by asylum seekers and advocacy groups for not being independent of the RIA.
In 2014, the High Court found that the lack of an independent complaints mechanism was unlawful.
Just last month, the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon announced that the Ombudsman for Children’s office plans to start accepting complaints from children in Direct Provision from April 2017.
As of January 2017, 4,427 people – including 1,139 children aged under 17 – were living in 32 direct provision centres across Ireland. This number of people represents 0.09% of the population.
Just two of the 32 centres are self-catering centres – Watergate House on Usher’s Quay, Dublin 8 and Carroll Village in Dundalk, Co Louth – where a total of 118 people lived, as of January 2017.