TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY is having to play hardball with some of our European colleagues this weather, or at least appear to.
It is not the first time, however, that the Mayo man has had to call on his inner steel. Two extracts from John Downing’s newly-published biography of Kenny – entitled The Unlikely Taoiseach - reveal an astonishing interlude in former teacher Kenny’s career: as a sharpshooting rat-killer.
The anecdote harks back to Kenny’s time teaching in Mayo before he first became elected as a TD at the age of 24 in November 1975. The poor conditions of the school building necessitated the rodent cull and Kenny has described the incident at least twice since he became a politician.
As if that wasn’t enthralling enough, it appears he made a few minor modifications to the story in between tellings. The second, slightly more tempered, version has him reducing his shotgun power by halving the number of pellets in the cartridge. It also has a reduction in the number of, er, casualties.
Extract 1, page 181. Interview with Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio1′s News at One in November 1996 when Kenny was Minister for Tourism and Trade.
He was in Brussels when controversy erupted about rat infestation in a school at Rathbane, Bofeenaun, in Co Mayo, in late November 1996. As luck would have it, Education Minister Niamh Bhreathnach was also in Brussels, and after talks between the two, Kenny announced a new school would be provided as soon as possible with interim accommodation immediately if necessary.
On ‘News At One’ on RTE radio, Kenny told presenter, Sean O’Rourke, he had first-hand experience of this problem as a teacher and had occasion to sneak back to school in the evening and shoot the rats. The following surreal conversation then followed.
O’Rourke: “How many?”
Kenny: “I think I dispatched half a dozen”.
Kenny: “By shotgun”.
O’Rourke: “Politics must be quite boring by comparison?”
Kenny, laughing: “Well, it’s a good thing to take out the odd rat.”
O’Rourke, laughing even louder: “Well, I think we’ll leave it there”.
Extract 2, page 270. Interview with Jason O’Toole in the Irish Daily Mail on Sunday on 27 September, 2009, when he leader of Fine Gael and in Opposition in the Dáil.
Interviews like the one he gave Jason O’Toole in the Irish Daily Mail on Sunday on September 27, 2009, made it hard at times to take Kenny seriously. Again he harked back to his 1996 tales of rodent-killing heroics, when he had been a teacher in a rat-infested school in Mayo before entering politics.
Kenny explained that he had been secretary of the local gun club and the staff and pupils in his school were very disturbed by rats under the floor.
“I waited in the evening there one time and I took half the pellets out of the cartridge and I just waited for ‘my friends’ to arrive and I blew them into oblivion. I got three or four. They got their own back because you could smell the things in the floor for months afterwards,” Kenny recalled.
The Unlikely Taoiseach by John Downing is published by Paperweight Press, €18.99.