Enda Kenny Profile
Enda Kenny has been leader of Fine Gael since 2002, following the disastrous general election in which FG lost 23 seats. Michael Noonan resigned and Kenny won the leadership.
He has been a TD since 1975, elected at the age of 24 as a Mayo representative following the death of his father Henry, a Mayo TD for over 20 years. He married Finnoula O'Kelly in 1992, and has 3 children, Naoise, Ferdia and Aoibhinn.
In 1986 Kenny became Junior Minister for Education and Labour in the government of Garret Fitzgerald. Since then he has held ministries in Education, Western Development, Youth Affairs and Sport while FG were in opposition. From 1994 to 1997 he was Minister for Tourism and Trade, during the last FG government.
Fianna Fail's popularity dropped significantly in 2003, after Kenny became leader. Success for FG in local and European elections in 2004 increased the confidence of the party. A pre-election agreement was made with the Labour Party. The two parties now offer joint policies on a number of issues, such as tax, health, crime, the economy and housing. The Green party has also said they would be open to the possibility of a coalition with FG, but declined to make a formal agreement.
In a recent poll, Fianna Fail showed an increase in support of 2 points up to 36%, but the FG/Labour coalition maintained a lead, at 38%. When split into two parties, FG actually showed a fall of 3% points, while Labour rose 2% points. The poll showed a dramatic increase in the number of people who believed the alternative coalition of FG/Labour would win.
In a radio interview, Kenny was bullish about the prospects of a change of government in favour of his party. Buoyed by poll results, Kenny said that “people feel this government is tired and jaded” and “they will change it on the 24th of May”.
In his opinion, this election is a referendum on the failure of the government to provide health services. He said “clearly the government has imploded. Public services are a shambles”.
Kenny signed a “Contract for a Better Ireland” as part of his election campaign. He compared his actions with other parties. In his opinion, FG is the only party that has laid out definite, costed plans for government, and his signing of the contract means that he is putting his “political life on the line”.
When asked what he would do about the nurses' dispute over pay and working hours, Kenny said that, as Taoiseach, he would talk directly with the nurses to resolve the issue, with “imagination and creativity on benchmarking”. This means that he would “change the criteria and flexibility of benchmarking”, but nonetheless the pay issue “would not be solved outside benchmarking”.
Kenny refused to be drawn when pressed on the issue of Bertie Ahern's finances. In answer to the question of whether Ahern is fit to be Taoiseach, Kenny said that the “answer is going to be given by public”. “I am not the judge of standards, I am the judge of political actions. We have our program out there and we will stand by that program. My contract for a better Ireland is my word and my bond and my contract”.