Ireland's new Taoiseach (Prime Minister)-elect Enda Kenny is facing into considerable political challenges, but those who know him best in New York believe he’s more than equal to the task.
Radio broadcaster and longtime Irish community leader Adrian Flannelly, a fellow Mayo man who has known Kenny personally for many years, told the Irish Voice, “Enda Kenny is a country boy from the west but he knows his stuff. For as long as I’ve known him he plays hard and works hard.”
Flannelly believes that Kenny is a different type of politician to his predecessor Brian Cowen.
“Enda has smarts that Cowen never had. When the Irish bailout deal was negotiated it seemed like a campaign tactic for Kenny to say he planned to renegotiate it, but Enda is the type of guy who can actually do that.
“Kenny is also much more credible than the former taoiseach. He’s much more practical and he has better business sense. He can argue that what was done to the country is something that we cannot afford. He will say to the EU and the IMF, ‘Do you want to run the risk of defaulting, or will you give us a chance to afford what we’ve signed off on?’”
Prominent New York attorney and Irish American activist Brian O’Dwyer, whose father Paul was from Mayo, agrees that Kenny is the ideal candidate for the challenges currently facing Ireland.
“Frankly I think he’s the perfect man for the times,” O’Dwyer told the Irish Voice. “He’s not flashy; he’s a calm, steady consensus builder. He more like a CEO than a politician and I think that’s what Ireland needs right now, a steady hand at the wheel as opposed to a career politician.”
Pressure is building in Ireland for the Kenny to renegotiate the financially punishing IMF and EU bailout deals, but the question is, how will Kenny handle it?
“If he can renegotiate something on the European level and on the bailout, however slight it might be, it will instantly establish a credibility that he can take home with him,” says Flannelly.
The most pressing challenge for Kenny is to achieve a level of cooperation with both the EU and the IMF, Flannelly believes. “I think that’s where his strengths lie too. He believes that deal can be modified -- nothing major, perhaps a lower interest rate -- and he can then come back to the people and say we’re here already.”
Flannelly believes the political honeymoon that incoming governments enjoy will be shorter than usual because the Irish people are just beginning to understand the severity and the depth of what has happened to their economy.
“Most people have been living in denial. What’s really going to hurt is when you have a thousand people a week looking to emigrate somewhere. We’re right back to the 1980s, back to a great sense of loss and insecurity,” he said.
But Flannelly believes in Kenny’s ability to calmly weather the storms ahead. “I’ve known Enda for a long time and he doesn’t get devastated by the image he has (for good or bad). He has experience within his own party and knows that some of his closest confidants will stick him in the back,” he said.
“But that’s in the past, it’s done, it’s not going to happen again. I think his election is a great move and working with his coalition partners in the Labor Party is one that makes sense.”
O’Dwyer believes that the Irish people are desperate for change and the repudiation of the former government makes that clear.
O’Dwyer added, “I’m very impressed by his performance in the election, when his polls numbers increased by twenty points as people got to know him. Now he’s the chairman of the board of Ireland.
There are times when you need an inspiring, flashy leader and there are times when you need a consensus builder. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s from Mayo.”