herald

Sunday 20 January 2019

I'm ready to lead as Taoiseach -- Kenny

ENDA Kenny today spelled out his priorities for his first 50 days in office.

In an exclusive interview with the Herald he vowed to hit the ground running as Taoiseach - whether in coalition with Labour or in a minority government.

The Fine Gael leader committed to delivering "the hardest working government in the history of the state".

"Not an hour is to be wasted and that applies to everybody," he told the Herald.

He cast his vote today in his native Mayo while Labour's Eamon Gilmore voted in his Dun Laoghaire base.

Mr Kenny spoke exclusively about:

- The affect of political upheaval on family life

- His belief that Dubliners are warming to him

- And why Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams still has questions to answer.

Making his final pitch to Dubliners, the Fine Gael leader said that the damaging heave led by Richard Burton and the 'Green Isle Nine' was "an internal contest".

"I've forgotten about that and I've appointed people who had a different view from what I had. We built the team and got on with it," he said.

The Dail resumes on March 9 to elect a new Taoiseach but, even before that, Mr Kenny is expected to attend a meeting of 14 EU leaders in Finland.

He will most likely appoint his new Cabinet on March 10 and will be hoping to travel for a St Patrick's Day meeting with President Obama.

Asked whether that meant key orchestrators like Leo Varadkar, Brian Hayes and Lucinda Creighton would be in the mix for top Cabinet portfolios, Mr Kenny said they would.

"If it comes my way to make choices like that, of course everybody is in there," he said.

"I've never been one to dispense with talent or ability. I reflected that in the frontbench we have now.

"I think it's very good for people to have ambitions and to give opportunities to those when that arises."

He has also promised not to seek a second term as Taoiseach if he does not fulfil his election commitments.

Mr Kenny told the Herald that there is "no magic wand" that will fix Ireland's problems but promised not to enter into denials about the stark reality.

And while much has been made of Kenny's inability to connect with Dublin voters after a recent Herald poll showed a 65pc dissatisfaction with him in the capital, the Fine Gael leader argued that his country mannerisms will not hurt public opinion of the party in the city.

"I think we've disproved all of that. I've been very, very responsive to the Dublin people and the welcome they've given us everywhere we've gone, not just now but over the last few years."

He added: "This is nothing to do with where you are from. Politics is about the people and government is about country. That is our focus: sorting out our countries problems and where we go from here. Whether it be Dublin or Cork or Limerick or wherever."

Quizzed on whether he and his family are ready for the upheaval of him becoming Taoiseach, Mr Kenny said that they were.

He said that wife Fionnuala and their three children -- Aoibhinn (18), Ferdia (16) and Naoise (14) -- "were brought up in a political household and we understand that very well".

Mr Kenny also revealed that daughter Aoibhinn is more worried about her Leaving Cert than the election.

"This is the midterm break week so the boys are helping and our daughter is doing the Leaving Cert so she has to divide her time between study and excitement and canvassing."

As his party hit 40pc in the polls for the first time, Mr Kenny again ruled out going into coalition with Sinn Fein.

And he hit out at Gerry Adams' IRA past saying, "Obviously his involvement in different times leaves questions unanswered and the people of Louth are going to judge him in the same way they will the other candidates."

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