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Flattery, chuckles and playful punches: Enda's long goodbye comes to an end

Enda Kenny stepped down as Taoiseach yesterday.

Enda Kenny leaving Government Buildings
Enda Kenny leaving Government Buildings
Image: RollingNews.ie

WITH A GRIN on his face, Enda Kenny playfully punched his party colleague, Finance Minister Michael Noonan on the shoulder, as if to signal the end of their time in Leinster House.

They’ve been through a lot together.

They both served as Fine Gael leaders, they supported each other as they navigated the recession, and both men are leaving politics in tandem.

After 42 years in politics, and six of those as Taoiseach, the curtain on Kenny’s tenure finally came to an end yesterday.

There were kind words (and some not so kind) levelled at the Mayo man yesterday afternoon:

“Hard-working”, “boundless enthusiasm”, “optimism” and “folksy charm”.

“The prospect of making a speech or listening to them, either of glorification or flagellation, is not something that I really relish because this has never been about me. It has always been about the problems and challenges our people and country face,” said Kenny.

He spoke about how he continues to believe that politics is a noble profession, and one that he is grateful the people of Mayo allowed him to do for so long.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

However, Kenny admitted he has made mistakes during his time as Taoiseach.

Ruth Coppinger and Gerry Adams were quick to point some of them out. Coppinger raised the recent case of a young girl who sought an abortion being sectioned, while Adams said he still could not understand why Kenny had not yet recognised the Palestinian State.

Perhaps finding it difficult to listen to their husband and father being slated in public, Kenny’s wife, Fionnuala and son, Ferdia (who were seated in the seats usually reserved for visiting dignitaries) appeared to look to the sky or the public gallery, ignoring the pointed words.

“I am the first to acknowledge I have not got everything right but I can honestly say my motivation was always what I believed was in the best interest of the Irish people,” said Kenny.

Untainted by corruption

The common theme throughout was that Kenny was a leader who was enthusiastic and hopeful when the country needed him to be, while also escaping any sort of taint of corruption. (The fact that this was mentioned a few times perhaps speaks volumes about Ireland’s political past that this is something to be congratulated).

074 Enda Kenny leaves the office_90514755 Enda Kenny taking a selfie with a passerby. Source: RollingNews.ie

‘I will miss you’ 

But it isn’t too often that politicians have their rivals say they will miss them.

Adams and Micheál Martin did just that, paying tribute to the man they have spared against for the last six years.

“I will miss you. I will miss your entertaining tales of meetings you have had and, indeed, meetings you have not had, and recollections of people you have met along the way, like the man with the two pints in one hand. I will miss your optimistic energy, your jizz, your sense of mischief, your ability to field questions without giving the smallest clue as to your attitude to the questions you were asked. Forty-two years is a long time to be in the Leinster House bubble and you have earned your time off outside this place,” said Adams.

Meanwhile, speaking with fondness about the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin said they share a love of the great days of boxing, particularly the “we were kings” era.

Martin told the chamber he has learned a thing or two from Kenny, particularly in recent months when some members of his party were plotting a heave.

“The Taoiseach has given a masterclass to certain of his colleagues in how to manoeuvre a difficult situation in a beneficial direction. Rather than disappearing quietly at the first sign of panic from deputies more focused on polls than the work of government, he has managed events so that they have proceeded at his desired pace.

“He has ensured that those who were stalking the corridors in search of journalists to brief against him have been obliged to issue lengthy statements describing him as the greatest Irishman since Brian Boru,” he said, for which there were chuckles all round and a few side-eyes thrown around the room.

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But it was Michael Healy Rae who told the Taoiseach to take it all in his stride. He urged him to kick up his heels and to enjoy his time off with the family. And of course, to make a few more cycle trips along the Ring of Kerry. However, he noted that Kenny may cycle a little slower these days.

The platitudes were drawing to an end, but there was still time for one more contribution.

“Finally, on behalf of the Independent Alliance, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross,” said the Ceann Comhairle.

There were audible, giddy grumbles and laughter heard from the benches, as the politician, who previously called Kenny a “political corpse” in a newspaper column, took to his feet.

“I thank the House for such a warm welcome,” laughed Ross, as did Kenny.

After all, it’s water under the bridge now.

And that was it. A few compliments, a few digs and the sun had finally set on Kenny’s career as Taoiseach.

download (3) TDs queue up to shake Enda Kenny's hand in the Dáil.

There was a standing ovation for Kenny as he shook hands with his Cabinet colleagues, before a queue formed on the chamber floor as TDs lined up to wish him well.

The applause continued into the halls outside the chamber.

Surrounded by Leinster House staff, his family, and a number of TDs that had spilled outside the Dáil, he looked over his shoulder, gave another final wave goodbye, and walked away.

Whether Kenny will take up another job or prefer to enjoy his retirement, only time will tell.

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

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