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What Ryanair's Michael O’Leary could teach Enda Kenny about communications and political battles

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Ryanair's Michael O’Leary and the Irish leader Enda Kenny (Photo: Irish Independent)
Ryanair's Michael O’Leary and the Irish leader Enda Kenny
(Photo: Irish Independent)


Rather than ducking out of debates and avoiding the media, Enda Kenny should look to Michael O’Leary as a role model, writes Paul Allen

The stage was set for a showdown. The economy was still creaking under the weight of excessive spending and the Seanad was seen as a politically prehistoric talking shop for has-beens and wannabes.

And just like every Goliath needs a David and for every Dart Vader hopefully there’s a Luke Skywalker, Enda Kenny told the country it was time to call an end to the overinflated importance of the Seanad and save millions.

Some accused the Fine Gael leader of making a power grab and trying to do away with the only political obstacle standing in his way. Indeed, for some onlookers it was a shrewd and highly political move that would have even made C.J. Haughey blush.

 And so the polls showed that Enda’s master plan was set to romp home come the referendum.

The victory would once again see the Mayo man shine while his fellow coalition partners in crime, Labour, continued to bear the brunt of public dissatisfaction.

It was to be Enda’s triumph, and this was to be all the more impressive given how the Taoiseach had chosen to engage with the Irish people since taking power.

See no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil — this seems to have been the foundation stone of the Taoiseach’s communications strategy.

Indeed, his nickname during his time in office could easily be The Quiet Man.

And as the referendum campaign gathered pace, Enda did what Enda does best — keep mum.

Even though it was apparently his brainchild he was nowhere to be seen.

However, Enda’s ‘silence is golden’ communications strategy finally came back to haunt him, after the Government’s humiliating defeat in the referendum.

But did the Taoiseach expect avoiding interviews and ducking out of debates was ever going to inspire the public to back him?

Something did not smell right in the mind of the Irish people when Enda refused to engage in debate surrounding the abolition of the Seanad.

And for a nation of talkers that thrive on fierce and robust debate that just didn’t seem to fit. And hence, while the polls had Enda’s dream of doing away with the Upper House looking as if it would succeed with little trouble, by the time voting time came around people had made up their mind.

“The meek may inherit the earth, but they will not have it for long,” Ryanair supremo Michael O’Leary once said. And it was Enda’s meekness in defending his proposition that led to its defeat.

Love or loathe O’Leary his no-nonsense straight talking would be a tonic for politicians everywhere.

But politicians love ducking and avoiding the tough questions, and, just like Enda, they will maintain media silence for as long as they can get away with it.

The Irish public has now hopefully made them think otherwise.

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