Irish Examiner | by Shaun Connolly | July 2012
THE level of self-awareness was rather startling for a politician as he asked: “Who wrote this shit?”
It was not a review of this column, but a despairing declaration from New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg after becoming increasingly embarrassed by a speech he was delivering which had been knocked-up by one of his aides to mark an Independence Day hot dog-eating competition.
After endless unfunny references to “relish” and “top dogs” the Mayor went off-script and issued the very public rebuke to his wordsmith.
If only our own dear deputies were as self-effacing, especially Enda Kenny, who often re-uses such clonkers as: “It is said that the tomorrow imprinted on our ancestral retina is our today.” To which the only possible response is, as the young people like to textually put it, WTF?
Political correspondents dread it when the Taoiseach starts getting all New Age mystical and muses on such matters as “the lightness of our generational soul” (again, Enda, — WTF?).
We have to sit through all this verbal bilge at half-empty events nobody really cares about — or even remembers 10 minutes after they have finished — because they lead us to the fabled “doorstep” moment when we snatch a few minutes with the great man to ask about the breaking issues which actually effect people’s lives in the post-ancestral retina of our today.
Yet, 15 months into the job and Enda has yet to grasp this rather basic fact, and seems bemused that a gaggle of journalists had gathered at an event on Wednesday not to gaze lovingly upon his wonderfulness while in awe of the lightness of being that is his generational soul, but to actually ask him some questions.
Strangely, this seems an alien concept to Mr Kenny, who accused the journalists present of “looking for a story”.
My God Enda — you’re so right! If we allow journalists to look for stories where will this madness all end? Gardaí looking for criminals? Doctors looking for sick people to treat?
And in a rather clumsy and unseemly bid to evade probing, Mr Kenny momentarily lost his footing and very nearly fell into a large flower pot as journalists swirled around him.
After Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore’s attempt to carve some definition for Labour within the Tory Coalition Of Misery with his ringing declaration that gay marriage equality is “the civil rights issue for this generation”, it had become the live story of the day, and the mediapresent was naturally curious as to whether the Taoiseach agreed with his deputy head of government or not.
It was at this point that Mr Kenny nearly lost his footing and toppled over into the flower pot — which is probably ironically fitting, considering he did not seem to know where he stood on what most people consider a very black and white issue.
After regaining his dignity following his brush with the earthenware pot and a camera tripod, Mr Kenny decided to hide behind the Constitutional Convention, consisting of 66 randomly selected citizens and 33 politicians which is to be formed next week, and is charged with making recommendations to the Cabinet on such matters as same-sex marriage and other reforms that require referendum amendments.
The Taoiseach insisted that, as head of Government, he should leave it to the convention to express an opinion — which must rank as one of the biggest and most bizarre abdications of leadership of his time in office so far.
Either the Taoiseach agrees with what polls show is a near three-quarters majority in favour of gay marriage equality, or he sides with the minority who oppose it. It is quite simple.
People on both sides of such an emotive issue have a right to know what the Taoiseach of the country thinks.
Does Enda really want 66 random people on the convention to tell him how to think on every major issue before he can be bothered to make his mind up on it?
As it is, it looks suspiciously like Mr Kenny is sticking by his 2007 declaration that he supports civil partnership but not full same-sex marriage equality — only he is too scared to say so in public.
But nobody wants a timid Taoiseach. Whether he is pro or anti, he should have the spine to say so and argue for that position — that is what leaders are elected to do.
A formal complaint about Wednesday’s doorstep has been made by Fine Gael’s Government Press Secretary Feargal Purcell, stating: “The collective behaviour of the journalists in attendance was disgraceful.”
As one of the journalists present, I know that claim is as inaccurate as it is offensive and I would advise Mr Purcell — who recently took a wage hike of €3,500 to bring his salary from taxpayers to €119,795 as reward for getting the Government’s message across so well — that what is really disgraceful is a Taoiseach refusing to comment on one of the most talked-about issues of the day, and a press machine that far too often resembles a mess machine.
Mr Kenny came across like a real-life equivalent of the gibberish-spouting BBC cartoon characters Bill And Ben The Flower Pot Men, in that he made a lot of noise but said nothing of any use.
Bizarre accusations of a woman journalist acting in a manner “tantamount to an assault” on the Taoiseach were also thrown about by some — but in reality the only assault that occurred was the one perpetuated by Mr Kenny and his press flunkies upon the nation’sintelligence.
Memo to Enda: For next week’s episode of the tragicomedy How To Be A Taoiseach, try to have some things called “opinions” and “principles” and be ready to share with the nation. Oh, and remember that journalists look for stories, as keenly as TDs look for expense account loopholes to abuse.