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Here's what we learned from Enda Kenny's one-on-one with TheJournal.ie...

The Taoiseach paid a visit to our HQ this week and he had plenty to say…

IMG_5058 Enda Kenny speaks to TheJournal.ie's political editor Hugh O'Connell at our offices in central Dublin this week. Source: Nicky Ryan/TheJournal.ie

Updated at 7.40pm

ENDA KENNY HAS been increasingly willing to do one-on-one interviews in recent weeks.

He gave an in-depth interview to Pat Kenny’s on Newstalk in January and we saw him go up against Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ’s Prime Time last month.

This week, the Taoiseach paid TheJournal.ie a visit for his first one-on-one interview with this website since he took office in February 2011.

The full interview is well worth a watch (even if we do say so ourselves) but in case you don’t have the time or the bandwidth, here’s what we learned from it:

1. He’s entitled to change his mind 

Enda 4 Source: TheJournal.ie

Enda Kenny was once against same-sex marriage, but has since changed his mind. He’s entitled to do so “the same as anybody else”, he told us, adding:

I’ve seen society evolve over the last many years in many ways, and obviously, having engaged with members of the gay community, I think this is the time for the question to be answered by the people, and I will strongly support it and urge everybody else to do so.

2. He has no regrets about THAT Cloyne speech 

One of the most interesting parts of our interview was Kenny referring back to his landmark speech on the publication of the Cloyne report. In July 2011, he slammed “the dysfunction, the disconnection, the elitism that dominates the Vatican today”. Reflecting on that speech nearly four years later he told us the situation had become “completely intolerable”.

cloyne speech Source: RTÉ/YouTube

Kenny admitted that previous taoisigh were “in a very different place” when it came to Church-State relations, but said “this was something that was coming for a long time”.

“In a country where we were dominated by the church for so many years, to the point where all of this was suppressed and frustrated, people were here with very serious stories to tell,” he said.

3. He’s all about the jobs 

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 20.24.08 Enda Kenny talks to staff at TheJournal.ie's offices this week Source: Screengrab/Enda Kenny/Facebook

Kenny said that he expects unemployment to fall below 10 per cent later on in the year, describing this week’s Live Register figures as “very heartening”.

He expects it to be “well down in the nines” by the end of this year. The hospitality and construction sectors, as well as the retail industry, are areas where advances could be made on the jobs front, he said.

4. He’d take another pay cut 

Kenny admitted his is a “well paid job” but said he’d be prepared to take another salary cut “the same as anybody else”.

Source: Video: Nicky Ryan/TheJournal.ie

5. He thinks the government has time to recover in the polls 

Kenny said that he expects people to “really focus” on what’s happening in the country later on in the year and on whether “this crowd have delivered on the job that I asked them to do”. On the government’s current poll ratings, he said:

You’re a year out from a general election and people answer questions when they’re asked questions in polls and that kind of thing.

6. He doesn’t take himself seriously

So much so, Kenny said it twice during the course of the interview:

enda2 Source: TheJournal.ie

7. He can’t satisfy everyone 

Bluntly, and perhaps alluding to the unions and others demanding pay inreases now, Kenny said there are lessons from other countries that not everyone’s demands can be met:

Those hard won gains can be lost easily. There will be no complacency from government. There won’t be any capacity to meet all the demands that people have.

8. He wants to spread out the recovery 

Enda how's she cutting Source: TheJournal.ie

One of the criticisms of this government’s handling of the recovery is that it hasn’t been very well spread across the country. Rural areas still suffering massively from the effects of the crisis. Kenny wants to change this between now and when he leaves office.

It means you have to meet the broadband challenge, it means that you have to work to, you know, deal with all the inadequacies of service in water, communications and roads. But essentially the more people you have at work, the more they can contribute to their own local economy.

9. He won’t be debating Micheál Martin right now

We asked Kenny if he’d take up the Fianna Fáil leader’s one-on-one TV debate challenge. He bluntly responded: “No” before rather bizarrely stating:

I don’t think Micheál Martin is the leader of the opposition at all.

The Taoiseach doesn’t want TV debates until the election rolls around. But check out his response when we pushed him on whether he’d be prepared to go one-on-one with either Martin or Gerry Adams:

Source: Video: Nicky Ryan/TheJournal.ie

10. He doesn’t like being known as the most liberal Taoiseach ever… 

Kenny’s interventions on abortion, same-sex marriage and the church have led some to describe him as the most liberal head of government in the history of the State. But he’s not a fan:

I don’t like those kind of tags actually. Politics is about making decisions, it’s about people and making decisions that effect their lives.

11. He’s proud of Ireland. Real proud… 

In a line that could be straight out of a conference speech, Kenny told us:

endamain Source: TheJournal.ie

12. He intends to serve a full second-term…

If re-elected next year, Kenny intends to serve a full second term as Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach, telling us:

I would of course.

Whether others in his party let him is, of course, another matter.

13. … and he has no interest in being president

Despite some chatter in political circles that Enda could go for the Áras in 2018, he told us he had no interest.

enda president Source: TheJournal.ie

Originally posted at 8.45am.

Watch the TheJournal.ie’s full interview with Enda Kenny >

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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