Enda Kenny

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny entered office with little expectation after a long career spent on the fringes apart from a stint as Minister for Tourism.

He was after all inheriting a ruined economy and a bleak future.

He has defied every low expectation since taking office however.

His latest triumph was shepherding the new abortion bill through the Irish parliament, despite losing five members of his own party.

The Irish Supreme Court, in reaction to the rape pregnancy of a 14-year-old ruled in 1992 that abortion had to be made available in limited circumstances to save the life of the mother.  Successive governments have ignored the ruling and tried to avoid a confrontation with the church.

Kenny, after the Savita Halappanavar case, which resulted in a young Indian dentist dying because  her non viable 17 week fetus was not terminated, did the brave thing and insisted that legislation be brought forward.

It was the kind of risky political play that other Irish leaders had shunned, focusing on an issue that is incredibly divisive and has no political upside.

Nonetheless Kenny persisted and to his credit has now put the issue beyond political wrangling by passing the bill.

In the process he  took on an entrenched church and delivered a powerful message that while he is a devout Catholic, he is not a Catholic first and Prime Minister second.

It was the second time since taking office that Kenny had driven home that point, the first his remarkable attack on the Vatican and their cover up of priestly sexual abuse in ireland.

The news of his abortion bill success came on the same day that another shameful chapter wa written in the life of the church in Ireland when it was revealed that the Dublin Archdiocese had sent a known pedophile priest abroad to California, knowing full well his vicious past, but never informing the diocese of Stockton, California about that past.

Kenny has called all that nonsense to account and has delivered a blow for transparent and effective government. The Catholic Church would do well to heed the warnings of  their own Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin that the lessons of the disgraceful cover ups in the past need to be learned and learned well.

Enda Kenny has defied the low expectations since taking office and has shown a remarkable ability to challenge sacred tenets of Irish life for generations and deliver change. Next up is a referendum on gay marriage. No doubt the church will be after him on that one too.

He may well go down as one of the best ever to occupy the office. That could never have been predicted when he took office.