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Dublin: 6°C Saturday 28 November 2020

My encounter with a shotgun-toting Enda Kenny

Former Sunday Press journalist Éanna Brophy was in Mayo West 40 years ago this month, as Enda ran in his first Dáil contest.

Image: EMPICS Sports Photo Agency

UNLIKE MOST JOURNALISTS today, I didn’t have to loiter outside the Dáil gates or catch him at some public engagement in the hopes of grabbing a sound-bite from the Taoiseach.

Instead, I was invited into his home to sit down at the kitchen table for tea and a chat about his plans and hopes for the future.

Admittedly this was before he became Taoiseach. In fact he was not yet even a TD.

It was early November 1975 and Enda Kenny was about to enter politics.

I had forgotten the details of this encounter until I was given a copy of the Sunday Press page I used to write every week, visiting different parts of the country as a circulation-boosting exercise.

So that week there was a by-election brewing in West Mayo and Enda had been chosen to defend the Fine Gael seat which had been that of his father, Henry Kenny who had recently died. He had been the ruling coalition government’s parliamentary secretary (junior minister) in the Department of Finance.

It was to be a crucial election, and both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and the political media pundits were about to descend there in force.

We got there ahead of them.

It was a quiet, almost diffident-seeming young 24-year-old who greeted me and our photographer. The Kenny household was still in deep mourning for a loved husband and father: on one table there were sympathy and memorial cards – but nearby was another one with letters and cards congratulating Enda on being nominated as candidate at the party convention.

It had been a close thing – not that there were rivals – but there had been a question as to which Kenny would step forward. Enda, who was head teacher at a 3-teacher school, was eventually agreed by the family to be the one – and in talking to him at the time I did get a feeling that maybe he had been slightly reluctant.

He certainly pointed out that, from helping his father and watching him at his constituency work, he knew that the life of a politician was not an easy one. The newly-minted candidate avoided all tricky questions about politics (shades of the future?), explaining that he was waiting for instructions from head office.

This was, of course, years before young Enda got hitched. We pondered aloud whether his single status might be a hindrance with conservative western voters. Seeing that he was stuck for an answer, his mother, Eithne stepped in and twinkled at us, joking that this might in fact attract a bevy of “young lady” first-time voters, now they could vote at 18.

It was shortly after that that he shouted for “Brandy” and produced a gun. No, it was not to run us out of Castlebar – it was a shotgun, and he had told us he liked to relax with his dog – yes, Brandy – and do a bit of wildfowling at one of the local lakes.

So off he went with gun, dog and snapper for his first ever photo-call.

Note: Enda Kenny marks 40 years as a TD on Thursday 12 November. 

Read: Enda says there will be no statues erected in his glory

Read: Reprinting the punt and pulling out of government: A look inside Eamon Gilmore’s new book

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