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Dublin: 17 °C Sunday 9 August, 2020

He made it: Enda just became the longest-serving Fine Gael Taoiseach

The Taoiseach reaches a political milestone today.

kenny1 Source: Alan Kinsella

ENDA KENNY BECOMES the longest-serving Fine Gael Taoiseach today – surpassing the record set by John A. Costello back in the 1940s and 50s.

Much has been made of the milestone in recent months, in media coverage of the rumbling leadership contest within the main government party.

Commentators have mentioned April 20th as a date to be mindful of, amid speculation on when the veteran TD will step down from his role.

Kenny has been Taoiseach since 9 March 2011, when the 31st Dáil convened.

After serving in the role in a caretaker capacity in the wake of last year’s general election, he was re-elected to the role following 70 days of uncertainty and negotiation on 6 May last year.

John A. Costello, in case you were wondering, headed up a coalition of Fine Gael, Labour, Clann na Talmhúain and Clann na Pobhlachta between 1948 and 1951. He led a second coalition, with the same parties, between ’54 and ’57.

Liam Cosgrave headed up a Fine Gael-led government between ’73 and ’77. Garrett Fitzgerald served between ’81 and March ’82, and again between December ’82 and March 1987. John Bruton led the so-called ‘Rainbow Coalition’ from ’94 to ’97.

How does his record measure up?

‘A week is a long time in politics’ is how the old saying goes. So, whatever you make of the man himself, there’s no denying that staying in power for over half a decade is an achievement in and of itself.

You can expect to hear more about today’s milestone – and what it means in the context of the Fine Gael leadership battle – in today’s TV and radio news coverage.

Looking at the overall longest-serving records, however, Kenny falls far short of the records set by two of Fianna Fáil’s biggest beasts.

Bertie Ahern served eleven years as Taoiseach before his resignation in 2008 – behind Eamon de Valera, who served from ’37 to ’48 and then again for two shorter terms in the 1950s (de Valera also headed up the government from ’32 to ’37 – but the title of the job during the existence of the Free State was ‘President of the Executive’).

W. T. Cosgrave of Cumann na nGaedhael – which later merged with other parties to become Fine Gael – was head of government between 1922 and 1932.

File Photo Taoiseach's previous visits to Washington. Bertie Ahern Source:

The two main contenders for the Fine Gael leadership have been keeping their powder dry in recent weeks – but the leadership contest proper is expected to get underway soon.

It’s likely a new leader will be in place in time for the autumn Dáil term, at the latest.

It’s safe to say, so, that the Mayo TD has next-to-no chance of catching up with the likes of Bertie in the longest-serving Taoiseach stakes.

‘Won’t be emulating Dev’  

Kenny celebrated 40 years as a TD back in 2015 – but said at the time he had no intention of trying to break any records in that department either.

I have no intention of trying to emulate the achievement of the late Paddy Smyth, who served for 54 years, or indeed retire from active politics, as Eamon de Valera did, at the age of 90.

Smyth, a former Fianna Fáil minister, had served for 53 years and 11 months by the time he retired at the 1977 general election.

Eamon de Valera, of course, served two terms in the Áras after his time in the Dáil – finally retiring in 1973.

So does Kenny have any plans to up sticks and make a move to the Phoenix Park?

“I have no intention, none, of running for the office of Áras an Uachtaráin,” the Taoiseach told reporters at his party’s think-in last September.

Personally, I have no interest other than being an occasional attendee, or visitor at Áras an Uachtaráin.
I do not wish to be a tenant of the place.

Read: My encounter with a shotgun-toting Enda Kenny >

Read: Enda won’t be going for as long as Éamon de Valera >

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