#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 2°C Thursday 13 May 2021

Sitting on the dock of the bay, Enda and Joan make one last plea

Tea, scones and one last appeal to the voters in Dublin today.


“ARE YOU HAPPY?” Enda Kenny asked the demanding photographers on Leeson Street Bridge at an early morning photocall.

It was one of dozens he’s done over the past three weeks of a grueling campaign where his famous relentless energy has been needed to cope with a busy schedule.

But it’s become clear that all the travelling around the country may have taken its toll given the gaffes and missteps that have marred his election campaign and that of his party.

Whether it was ‘economic jargon’ on day one, the ‘whingers’ comment last weekend or his McNulty misspeak in the final TV debate, it’s not been a great election for Enda Kenny.

This morning, the last day of the campaign, began in the mostly affluent Dublin Bay South as he tried to rally the Fine Gael troops for the final push in a constituency where the party hopes to win two seats.

enda and co Frances Fitzgerald, Kate O'Connell, the Taoiseach, Maria Bailey, and Eoghan Murphy at Leeson Street Bridge this morning. Source: Hugh O'Connell/TheJournal.ie

It was all handshakes, selfies and smiles as sitting TD Eoghan Murphy introduced the Taoiseach to his more famous brother Killian Scott (aka Tommy from Love/Hate).

Kenny was, however, oblivious to Scott’s starring role in the hit gangland drama until Murphy helpfully reminded him.


There were a few brief chats with candidates and supporters, before Kenny bounced back into his car and headed down the road to Grand Canal Dock for a pressing engagement with Joan Burton.

In a photocall arranged late last night, reportedly at the request of Fine Gael, Enda and Joan were to make one last pitch to voters to re-elect the government by having tea and scones down in the revitalised docklands.

We suspect this was not something Labour would’ve been particularly comfortable with.

The party had just found a strong campaign message late in the day when it warned yesterday of the perils a Fine Gael/Fianna Fail government.

A consistent criticism of the Labour campaign has been its failure to put clear blue water between it and Fine Gael.

Yet here was the junior coalition party, on the final day of the campaign, tying itself inextricably to Fine Gael:

Source: Hugh O'Connell/YouTube

After Enda poured, the pair had a few quiet words as they supped on their black tea, forgoing milk, sugar and the enticing scones in front of them.

Then it was once last word with the media.

Kenny said it had been a “great privilege” to serve in coalition for five years and asked for Fine Gael supporters to continue their preference for Labour.

The people have within their grasp, have within their grasp, the opportunity to return a stable government that will complete the job.

He didn’t flinch even when a heckler walked past shouting: “Kenny, ye rat!”

Burton’s final plea was that a “small shift in voting intentions” would return “a stable government for the next five years”.

25/2/2016 General Election Campaigns Starts Source: Leah Farrell

It was some irony that as she said this – and Kenny nodded in agreement – the stand in front of the two leaders was collapsing under the weight of mics and dictaphones.

A Fine Gael handler stepped in to try and secure it and Kenny was lending a hand too. Quite literally, they were securing the recovery.

Burton continued: “I am asking people to think twice before they cast their ballot paper because a very small percentage shift for both parties would actually see a significant number of TDs returned to represent both Labour and Fine Gael.”

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

Kenny was at pains to say that he would not go into government with Fianna Fáil, at one point insisting “you can’t trust them!”. He later said:

I have no intention of doing a deal with Micheál Martin. His party wrecked this country after 14 years in power. We’re now headed in the right direction.

Twice he referred to the “temporary little arrangement” – a reference to Charlie Haughey’s description of his deal with Des O’Malley and the PDs in the 1980s. But Kenny said the outgoing government had been very different:

The arrangement of the Fine Gael and Labour party was never a temporary little arrangement, it’s gone the full five years and we’ve come through some calamitous and turbulent times.

Calamitous and turbulent are two words that could be applied to the government parties’ campaigns, particularly of Fine Gael, although don’t expect them to agree.  We put it to the party leaders that they have had two bad campaigns. Not so, insisted Kenny:

On the contrary, I think the campaign has been very vigorous, has been very real, has been very professional.

Pressed on whether he believed he’d had a good election, the Taoiseach insisted: “Yes, I do.”

Fianna Fáil would beg to differ and at its election headquarters a short time later, the party’s director of elections Billy Kelleher was gearing up for the final campaign press conference.

As the media waited, the unmistakable sound of Marvin Gaye could be heard from the speakers.

Was “let’s get it on” a subtle message to Enda Kenny ahead of election day? Maybe not given Kelleher was at pains to criticise the government parties’ campaigns.

He argued there is a “yearning for a change in direction” and noted that the other parties had changed their messages to voters during the campaign whereas Fianna Fáil’s message of ‘fairness’ had remained consistent.

“They have been used fear and smear as their basic campaign tactic,” he said.

They have changed their message, they have changed their policies, they have retreated from some of their major policies earlier on in terms of USC to a point where the Taoiseach on national television couldn’t say whether it is fair or not.

He took a dim view of the earlier photocall just a few minutes’ walk from Fianna Fáíl headquarters, saying: “When they’re sharing a cup of tea down by the docks things are really coming to an end for them.”

Kelleher also insisted, yet again, that Fianna Fail is not going into government with Fine Gael.

The broadcast moratorium brings an end to the war on the airwaves, while the ground war in constituencies all over the country continues for the rest of today.

Then it’s over to the people and the fate of all these politicians we’ve heard so much from over the past three weeks will be in your hands.

AS IT HAPPENED: Politicians scramble for last few votes before broadcast ban

Last poll: Fine Gael and Labour could be within touching distance of re-election

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

Read next: