Enda Kenny on the cover of Time
Landing the cover of the European edition of Time magazine this week is a landmark achievement by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

But more importantly, Time magazine’s imprimatur for the “Celtic Comeback” as it headlined the piece, is a powerful weapon for Kenny to swipe his critics with.

Like most Time cover stories it is a fluff piece on the Irish leader who comes across as pleasant and incisive about what he has to do.

“I see returns in the signs of confidence,” Kenny said.

“People tell me their own stories, about how they have come through great difficulty. But now they have a new sense of values and they see new horizons opening up.”
Kenny described the Celtic Tiger boom as false years that were “built on the veneer of endless wealth without hard work.”

The Time piece will help Kenny battle those critics who have been growing in numbers in recent months as emigration spiked and bad times continued.

He is heading into a ball-buster of a budget in December which will hit the middle class very hard indeed.

They are already beleaguered and increasingly hostile.

Now comes a new cloud on the horizon in the context of alleged political corruption

Last week there were strident calls for the resignation of Health Minister James Reilly, after news of alleged sweetheart deals for a property tycoon in his constituency surfaced. There was also outrage after another Minister Phil Hogan was alleged to have blocked a Traveller family from getting a house in a development in his constituency

That is poisonous stuff given Ireland’s recent history and led to an extraordinary attack by FIntan O’Toole, Ireland’s leading columnist, who writes for the Irish Times on the ethics of Kenny’s government.

O’Toole claimed Fine Gael had taken on the same wide boy and coercive politics that their hated predecessors Fianna Fail had.
He wrote:

“For Fine Gael, the formula makes complete sense. It has replaced Fianna Fáil as the chief operator of The Machine, the system of clientelist politics that has held power since the 19th century. It can stay in office for a very long time by becoming as adept and unashamed in its manipulation of the levers of power as the party it looked on for so long with all the envy of a shy, spotty youth watching the slick rogue getting all the girls. The jilted lad would console himself by raging that the rogue was a bad character. But secretly he dreamed of being the rogue himself.

“And now he is. Fine Gael has been given control of The Machine and is testing out what it can do. Oooh, look, says James Reilly, pull this handle and it can deliver primary care centers for me and my buddies! That’s nothing, says Phil Hogan, if you pull this switch, you can stop Traveller families moving in to a housing estate in your constituency. Feck your civic democracy, I’ve a Merc outside.”

Kenny can at least point to international opinion that he doing the right thing. Suffice to say that like many leaders, (see Tony Blair) Enda Kenny is probably appreciated more outside his country as the Time cover shows than  he is inside it.

Which version is correct, the Time magazine praise or Fintan O’Toole’s hard-hitting critique?

That will play out in the months and years ahead.