From a lame duck to ‘titan’ in two years…?

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THE publication of the new Dail constituency boundaries had TDs and commentators transfixed for most of last Thursday. The fact that the report was due was one of the worst kept secrets in Leinster House. If you believe the “informed sources” the report had been finalised before the fiscal treaty referendum, but that the Government — particularly the Fine Gael side — wanted to keep the contents under wraps in case the bad news dissuaded some backbenchers from giving the campaign their all.

Looking at the faces of many of the Fine Gael TDs around the Dail last Thursday, that was probably a wise move. While rumours that the report would contain bad news for some had abounded, it seemed many government TDs were hoping against hope that it wouldn’t affect them. They were wrong.

While the Fine Gael and Labour leadership may pat themselves on the back for delaying the publication, their timing may not have been quite as perfect as they hoped. It only narrowly avoided coinciding with an anniversary that the Fine Gael hierarchy would prefer be forgotten

It is now two years since the failed June 17, 2010, heave against Enda Kenny. Two years ago, many of those who now tell us that a political titan like the Taoiseach does not need to debate in public were bemoaning the fact that they had a leader who was not up to the job.

What a difference two years make. . . Or, do they? Has that much really changed in those two years?

Is the 2012 Enda Kenny substantially different to the 2010 Enda Kenny? Compare and contrast the comments of his colleagues now and you might believe that they believe he is a man reborn and re-invented. In fairness to his opponents back in 2010, they were hardly guarded or understated in their comments. They didn’t hold back in their criticisms.

Take this one from Richard Bruton on the RTE’s News at One on the day before the vote on Enda: “I unfortunately no longer have confidence that Enda Kenny can provide the leadership that this country needs. . .”

Or his comment on the morning of the vote on Newstalk’s Breakfast Show: “The most vital thing we now need is to show that we have a leader who has the capacity to manage the country’s affairs.” The morning before Brian Hayes was telling Newstalk: “What is in the interests of the country is to have a person who not only connects with the public but that the public believes. . .”

As devastating as these critiques were they pale in comparison to this withering criticism of Enda’s leadership skills from Leo Varadkar on RTE’s Prime-time: “I have had to ask myself that key question, the 3am question, if we are in government and there is a national crisis, if there is a sovereign debt crisis for example and Patrick Honohan rings the Taois-each and who do I want to answer that phone, I want Richard Bruton to answer that. . . The people are saying to us they don’t have confidence in Enda Kenny.”

When it comes to attacking Fine Gael leaders no one does it better than fellow Fine Gaelers. They leave the Shinners standing when it comes to attacking their own. They approach the task with a zeal and ferocity that would make even the most hardened Provo commander wince.

So who was right? Was it Bruton, Hayes and Varadkar in 2010 or Bruton, Hayes, Varadkar and Kenny in 2012? If it is the 2012 versions then what fundamentally changed about Kenny in the meantime? What was the precise substantive change that convinced them that their 2010 analysis of a man they already knew intimately was wrong?

While the Kenny we saw standing beside the Queen and President Obama did have the appearance of a leader, the Kenny we see walking into EU Council meetings and the one we don’t see on TV debating vitally important issues; doesn’t. This is about substance, not style or appearance. It is about Leo’s 3am question.

The freedom that some Fine Gael TDs may now feel from seeing their political hopes dashed by the move-ment of a line on a map may lead them to ask them-selves the same question — and publicly at that.

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