A true patriot or a tainted legacy? Enda Kenny gave his last speech as Taoiseach today

There were plenty of kind words, and some not kind ones, from the opposition benches today. / YouTube

So today really is the last day of Enda Kenny’s long goodbye as Taoiseach.

After 42 years as a TD, 15 as Fine Gael leader, and six as Taoiseach, Kenny has given his final speech to the Dáil.

There were plenty of tributes and kind words (from some benches in the Dáil at least) for Kenny, as well as a standing ovation, after he finished addressing colleagues for the last time.

Thanks for joining us for today’s liveblog.

It’s around an hour before Kenny takes to the stage that is Dáil Éireann for his last speech but there’s plenty of reaction already in and out of Leinster House.

Have an opinion on our outgoing Taoiseach? Let us know in the comments below or send them in to

Whatever your opinion of Enda, he’s had some journey over his 40 years in the Dáil.

From a reluctant Taosieach to a reluctant ex-Taoiseach, this piece from my colleague Rónán Duffy has a look at what the Mayo man’s legacy will be.

enda legacy

This is not just Enda’s last day in the hot seat, as Minister Michael Noonan will also step down as Minister for Finance, when Leo Varadkar assumes the role as Taoiseach tomorrow.

There’s been plenty of speculation as to who Leo will choose to replace him, but nothing has been confirmed just yet.

Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams spoke to journalists at Leinster House earlier today, and said that he wished Enda and Michael Noonan well, before getting a few digs in at the UK government.

adams twitter

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Micheál Martin also struck a conciliatory tone, with the Fianna Fáil leader jokingly(?) saying that he’d “probably miss him”.

The Taoiseach, himself, didn’t have much to say when arriving at Leinster House this morning telling reporters it was “business as usual”.

Outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

And what next for Enda? Will he walk off into the sunset?

Our political reporter Christina Finn had a look at where he may go next (with lots of pictures of Enda laughing and singing with children).

kenny-45-310x415 Enda Kenny / Twitter Enda Kenny / Twitter / Twitter

download (3) SIPA USA / PA Images SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

In reality, Enda’s departure is a long time coming.

Initially, he said he’d clarify his future after his St Patrick’s Day trip to the White House, but it wasn’t until mid-May that he finally made the announcement.

Last month, illustrator Annie West imagined what Kenny would be like in his office heading into the final days.

annie west Annie West for Annie West for

There have been plenty of pictures of a fresh-faced Enda Kenny taking his Dáil seat back in the 1970s and here is one such blast from the past in the RTÉ archives, on the election trail in Mayo West in 1975.

And what about the man who’s coming next?

Since being elected leader of Fine Gael, Leo Varadkar has made sure that he’ll have enough votes to become the next Taoiseach at a Dáil vote tomorrow.

Here’s our explainer for how it’s all going to go down.

Varadkar’s first aim was to secure the support of the Independent Alliance, which he duly achieved.

In other Independent Alliance news, Minister for Transport Shane Ross today announced that Stepaside Garda Station is set to re-open.

On a lighter note, the resignation of Enda Kenny should make the job of non-Irish journalists tasked with covering Irish news a bit easier, as many have mistaken Enda for Edna over the years.

As for Enda’s own take on his legacy, we asked him that very question back in 2015.

Here’s what he said: / YouTube

Just minutes away now…

All Fine Gael senators are beginning to file into the chamber now too, to hear Kenny’s final speech.

Packed to the rafters and set to go…

And he begins.

“I was hoping I could leave quickly and quietly,” he says.

He says he doesn’t relish hearing platitudes.

“This was never about me,” he said.

He thanks the Ceann Comhairle, and all the staff at Leinster House.

He quotes Teddy Roosevelt: “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

“Cynicism is always an easy cop out,” Kenny says.

He says hard work often goes unrewarded. He says people have a poor view of politics, and that politicians could change that by treating each other with respect.

He admits he didn’t get everything right, but said that the government had made a difficult situation work.

He says it would be “remiss” not to mention Labour’s role in the last government.

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He says it was a “privilege and pleasure” to work with party colleagues.

Kenny is also paraphrasing Michael Davitt.

“To Ireland, I leave freedom and independence which has always been my ambition to achieve”.

And a rousing ovation follows.


Micheál Martin says that Enda Kenny has given a masterclass to colleagues in how to conduct himself in the last few months.

He says that Kenny ensured his departure went “at his assigned pace”.

His would-be successors issued statements saying he was the best Irishman since Brian Boru, he jokes.

He says Kenny’s place in history is assured.

No purpose would be served by referencing disputes, the Fianna Fáil leader says.

He calls Kenny an “Irish patriot”.


He says that the failure of Mayo to win the Sam Maguire is a “great burden” for Kenny.

Martin says that the Taoiseach was courageous to take over the party, face the heave and win the 2011 general election.

“It was incredibly courageous of you to work in Dublin when Michael Ring was in Mayo stealing your votes,” he says.

On behalf of Fianna Fáil, he wishes the best to Kenny and all of his family.

Gerry Adams next. Will be similarly conciliatory?

He begins by wishing Enda Kenny well in the future.

He says that he always found Kenny friendly.

“I will miss you. I will miss your entertaining tales of meetings you have had. And not had.”

He references the infamous man with the two pints in his hand.

Adams says Kenny has earned his time off.


Adams says that marriage equality and his attitude to Catholic hierarchy were successes.

But there were failures too, the Sinn Féin leader says.

Failure to recognise Palestine was one, Adams says.

He criticises the government’s approach to the banking crisis, and says the government increased the debt burden on the Irish people.

“No one has really been held responsible,” Adams says.

He says: “Failure to hold anyone to account is the main failure of all.”

He also references the housing crisis, health service and Brexit.

No matter who the Fine Gael leader is, the party “only serves some of the people”.

He also goes on the attack at Fianna Fáil for supporting the minority government.

Another historic failure is the lack of engagement with the North, Adams says.

He says the DUP has wilfully blocked rights in the Northern Ireland.

“The only way to address this for a consistent strategic engagement,” he says.

The British government will not play its part unless the Irish government treats it as a priority.

“You can take satisfaction from achievements, but the biggest problems remain,” the Sinn Féin leader says.

Enda Kenny is probably the best leader Fine Gael ever had.

He closes by reiterating his support for the Taoiseach’s family.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin is speaking now.

He says others would attack Kenny for his legacy, but he won’t.

“But I won’t present a hagiography of you,” he says.

He says he recalls a strength of Kenny he saw when he worked closely with him during the Rainbow Coalition in the 1990s.

The hopeful, happy Enda is one the Irish people will remember, he says.


People couldn’t understand your high-fives with children back in 2010, Howlin says.

“You recognised that after the dark comes the dawn. Until then, we needed superficial light to keep us going,” the Labour leader says.

He calls it revisionism to say Kenny is wholly responsible for the banking crisis.

He says Fianna Fáil like to imagine that time began in 2011.

“Their version of facts is not true,” he says.

Howlin says that the FG-Labour government didn’t get everything right, but that it fulfilled its central role of “fixing the mess”.

He calls it Kenny’s greatest achievement and legacy.

He also praises the Taoiseach for his speech to the Dáil he gave after the Cloyne report.

“It made its way around the world in no time at all,” Howlin says. “You spoke on behalf of the people.”

Here’s a refresher on what Kenny said in that speech:


Howlin says that Kenny didn’t use the role for personal gain like some of his predecessors.

He says that the Taoiseach’s family will like a little more time with his family now.

“Good health to you and yours in the years to come,” he concludes.

Ruth Coppinger up next, who says that she won’t engage in “fake backslapping”.

She says she is bemused at his mention of Michael Davitt.

She goes straight on the attack, by mentioning the housing crisis, the gardaí and other issues.

“One issue sums it all up,” she says.

She talks about the story that emerged yesterday about the pregnant child refused an abortion.

“You did nothing to make sure [X-case] wouldn’t happen again,” she says.

People are outraged about this, she says.

uth coppinger

The Ceann Comhairle has interrupted.

He says that what Coppinger is saying is completely at odds with what should be spoken about today.

She rolls back, and says that she hopes that “reactionary policies” goes with Kenny.

Coppinger says that a new time may be on the way.

We need a movement to separate church and state, she says.

“We can’t trust the people in this Dáil to ensure this will not happen again.”

No applause for Coppinger.

Maureen O’Sullivan up next. She’s critical of the slogan “Keep the Recovery Going”.

On a personal level, she says that Kenny was personable and had a good sense of humour.

She acknowledges his apology to Magdalene Laundry victims, and his contribution to people in her constituency.

“You listen and took on board what was happening, and I trust your successor will do the same.”

Thomas Pringle also wishes the Taoiseach well.

He says that the recovery could have benefitted the many, and not just the few.

“Your legacy could have been so much more,” he says.


Michael Healy-Rae up next.

He says his father admired Enda Kenny.

You will have more time to do the Ring of Kerry cycle now, he says.

You can go in for a pint.

He says he can watch Kerry win the football and take some notes back to Mayo.

On a more serious note, he says the Irish people suffered a tough time.

He says more work needs to be done “not in a critical way, but a positive way,” he says.

Michael Harty, TD for Clare, says that Kenny has mastered the ability to use three minutes to avoid answering a question.

“I think you’re a decent, honest man without any taint of corruption,” he says.

michael harty

Social Democrat Róisín Shortall next.

She acknowledges his significant contribution to Irish politics and Irish life.

“But we come from two very different political traditions,” she says.

She says he has devoted his entire adult life to politics. “A remarkable record,” she says.

Kenny always remained upbeat and positive, she says. He made a lot of significant sacrifices for which we should express gratitude, Shortall says.

She thanks Kenny’s family should also be thanked for their sacrifices.

“Best wishes to you.”

roisin shortall

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said that Kenny has a great energy and commitment to hard work.

“You should that collaborative, courteous approach,” he says.

If you ask a family what happened, you always get a different account, Ryan says.

He says Kenny clearly had a central role in “taking the baton” on the financial crisis in 2011.

Ryan said Michael Noonan had a similar outlook to Brian Lenihan on the issue.

“Holding it together and stopping it falling is important,” he says of Kenny.

We need bigger, longer term thinking on the environment, for example. You could lead that, he says to Kenny.

eamon ryan

That’s the last of the tributes to Kenny.

Here’s his final speech in full: / YouTube

So there we have it. The end of an era as Taoiseach Enda Kenny steps down.

He received praise from many parts of the chamber, including from Fianna Fáil and Labour.

Even Gerry Adams was somewhat positive, saying that he would miss Kenny’s “jizz”.

He did face criticism, however, from the likes of Adams, Ruth Coppinger and others on the legacy of his leadership.

It’s very much out with the old, and in with the new then.

Enda Kenny is gone, and Leo Varadkar will become Taoiseach tomorrow.

There’s a standing ovation from all in the Dáil now as Enda shakes hands with all around him.


Look at them there, they’re all queuing up to shake his hand.


They’re all queuing up to get out of there now, as the crowds disperse.

On the right of the picture, however, it looks very much like Joan Burton wants to grab Leo Varadkar for a word.

leo joan

So what happens now?

Enda Kenny is still Taoiseach, technically, until Leo wins the vote and becomes the leader of the country tomorrow.

He’s set to visit President Michael D Higgins in the Áras later today to formally tender his resignation.

This video tweeted by the Áras earlier lays it out nicely:

Áras an Uachtaráin / YouTube

Incidentally, Micheál Martin was the first to rush over to shake Kenny’s hand at the end of proceedings.

There were more handshakes outside the Dáil chamber, as he makes his way to Government buildings with his family.

The Solidarity party have tweeted, criticising the “back slapping” and the “white wash” of Kenny’s record in the Dáil today.

And there we have it.

Enda Kenny has bid a fond farewell as Taoiseach of Ireland.

While he was praised for his achievements, a number of TDs chose to focus on the legacy that Kenny leaves behind as a negative one.

As a general, however, the theme of Kenny as a friendly, humorous and principled man emerged from all sides of the house.

Like him, loathe him or otherwise, Enda Kenny has now left the stage.

Join us tomorrow, when Leo Varadkar is all but certain to become the next Taoiseach of Ireland.

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