In an election campaign-boosting stop to Bailieborough at the weekend, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny side-stepped questions concerning Minister Heather Humphreys’ IMMA debacle and the resignation from the party of Deputy Sean Conlan.
Hosted by Deputy Joe O’Reilly, the leader’s visit took a turn towards the surreal, as he was greeted by a life-sized rabbit in a Shamrocks’ jersey, before competently dispatching with his social media ‘selfie’ duties and rattling off a rousing speech, before entertaining a brief press gathering.
Sandwiched beside his appointment to watch Castlebar Mitchels overcome Crossmaglen Rangers at Breffni Park, An Taoiseach and his entourage squeezed into the cosy kitchen following the wild ovation from the 100 or so well-wishers who packed Fox’s bar to hang on his every word.
With the party’s election tag-line - ‘Let’s keep the recovery going’- still ringing in the ether, attentions inside turned to what the coalition had done for employment in Cavan-Monaghan, a region many believe has simply been “forgotten”.
Despite a drop of 2,000 in the Live Register since 2011, State-backed agencies have done little to boost jobs here, with no sponsored IDA site visits last year. Even still, An Taoiseach talked up the government’s job plan for the future.
For full interview log on to www.anglocelt.ie
Including support for the roll-out of high speed broadband and the expansion of IDA green-field plants throughout the country, he said: “While [unemployment] may be down 20-25% in some areas, we want to enhance that, which is why the programme, which for instance in Cavan here will be €100 million worth of Capital expenditure, in a programme we’ve set out for the next seven years,” An Taoiseach told The Anglo-Celt.
He however stuttered, initially at least, when asked if he was “happy” Deputy Sean Conlan’s resignation from the party might focus the Fine Gael vote. An Taoiseach answered: “Obviously he is no longer a member of the Fine Gael party. Our candidates are Joe and Heather, we’re getting on with that, and we’re getting very strong support for them, as evidenced here in Bailieborough and Cavan in general. So I’m happy that Joe O’Reilly and Heather Humphreys will compete very strongly to be re-elected, which I expect will happen. It’s what they deserve but that’s a matter for the people in Cavan and Monaghan.”
An Taoiseach was similarly elusive when questioned if Minister Humphreys still had questions to answer regarding the 2014 appointment of Seanad by-election candidate John McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).
The move caused a political furore at the time, shaking the Fine Gael party to its core with calls of cronyism from opposition parties.
It furthermore prompted the Government to introduce changes so that candidates for State-board appointments must now be independently vetted.
Repeating those measures in his initial answer, when pressed again on the matter An Taoiseach said: “This applies right across the entire board. For every single person, for any Board now, has got to go through this independent assessment... Heather Humphreys is part of the Government. She is a very good Minister working very hard.”