The Taoiseach’s ‘state of the nation’ speech was more a poor exercise in public relations than a worthwhile political statement.
Enda Kenny was going to be damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. People wanted the truth, but the fact is people can’t handle the truth.
The Taoiseach’s ‘state of the nation’ address turned out to be the “this is going to hurt” pep talk a dentist might give before extracting teeth. We all knew regardless of how soft and palatable his words, the after affect was going to hurt like hell.
However, this carefully stage-managed affair suffered from one key blunder. While Enda’s tone was soft and his facial gestures gentle and compassionate, his two clenched fists placed on the desk in front of him told the truth of his internal turmoil.
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The Taoiseach knew his hands were tied. That is why his speech was far from a direct, comprehensive and truthful evaluation of where the country stands given Europe’s turmoil. Instead, it was a healthy serving of clichés all-round.
“We live in exceptional times,” we were told, “and face exceptional challenges.” Later on it was the tired “difficult choices are never easy.” Thankfully we were spared “there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
Charlie Haughey’s state of the nation address was remembered for all the wrong reasons, so Fine Gael’s handlers presumably wanted to ensure Enda’s speech did not leave such a lasting impression.
So, as is the problem with most political speeches, it was light on content and heavy on ‘stating the bleeding obvious’.
We were told that jobs are central to this budget because “work plays such an essential role in our lives.” Truly insightful stuff indeed.
But Enda went further — “Work gives us focus. Work gives us independence. Work gives our families hope and confidence.”
Now those sentences should have had black hoods thrown over them, been taken outside and then shot along with what ever clown wrote them.
There is certainly something about Enda, but it is not his charisma. By his own admission he is not a great orator, so by spurting out such drivel he tended to come across a little on the patronising side.
The production was also extremely poor from the camera angle to the lighting. Indeed, when one considers the magnificent room in which Enda was sitting and the Michael Collins painting which hangs over the fireplace, sadly the Taoiseach looked more like he was sitting in the courtroom of Judge Judy than a magnificent state office.
Even though Enda promised this was going to be a “job’s budget,” the truth of the matter is governments don’t create jobs. All governments can do is create the environment to create jobs and in fairness some of the steps briefly outlined could well go towards achieving this.
But the truth that may have been lurking between Enda’s clenched fists is that this budget is more to do with appeasing the Bundesbank rather than the people of Ireland.
The Taoiseach did make it clear that “as an island nation we cannot operate in isolation” and underlined the importance of our membership of the EU. However, he did not tackle the fact that until the catastrophe that hangs over the Euro is diverted and Europe gets its economy back on track, there is little we can do but tighten our belts and keep our fingers crossed.
Mary Lou McDonald accused Enda’s address of being merely “a softening up exercise.” This analysis is bang on. And it certainly was successful given the 1.1 million people who tuned in.
In fact, it is a pity RTE do not run repeats of Enda’s address to help prop up its Christmas schedule. This would not only help boost viewership figures, but would be very cost effective. In fact, they could intersperse it with apologies to Father Reynolds.
As I have recently discovered the people of Ireland are truly sick to the back teeth of RTE’s overpaid stars, so maybe a daily dose of Enda might make them realize you get what you pay for.
Here's a video of Enda's 'State of the Nation' address: