Sic transit gloria Enda – With the sun setting in the West, we bid farewell to the Mayo primary school teacher who was fortunate enough to have a father who was a TD. End slipped into his late father’s seat in the 1970s and has occupied it comfortably since.
As I discovered when I interviewed him three years ago, he was charming in an old-fashioned way. Bertie Ahern has been described as the Teflon Taoiseach; Enda would give him a run for his money. To take one example: the water protest, which saw tens of thousands taking to the streets, somehow managed to hit other targets than the man in the Taoiseach’s chair. Likewise the long-standing scandal of homeless families, particularly in Dublin. And while a traditional Catholic from Mayo, he presented himself as a defender against Church scandals, castigating the powers and actions of Catholic clergy. If he’d managed to be around when Mayo finally won an All-Ireland Football Final, he’d probably have been canonised in Castlebar before the end of the year.
And the north? Enda was very aware of the border. That is, he used the actions of the IRA in the north to deflect any question – economic, social services, health – put to him by Gerry Adams.
When a new Taoiseach takes over from an old one, people look for continuity. Using that criterion, Fine Gael supporters should relax, if one of the two front runners – Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney – succeeds Enda. Coveney made a point of being food for hungry cameras when he attended the funeral of Martin McGuinness. Leo Varadkar, in contrast, made one of his first television appearances when, from RTÉ’s Late Late Show’s studio audience, he accused Gerry Adams of putting at risk peace in the north.
Has Enda shown a burning concern about his fellow countrymen and women north of the border? Pass. Apart from the two set-pieces mentioned, has Simon or Leo shown a deep concern to move things forward north of the border? Pass.
As far as Irish people north of Dundalk and Bridgend are concerned, it’ll be heaped plates of plus ca change etc all round.