Tag Archives: Enda Kenny

Enda Kenny to resign as party leader, taoiseach

Enda Kenny will resign as Fine Gael party leader and as Ireland’s taoiseach effective 2 June. He has served as the Republic’s prime minister since 2011. He is the longest serving taoiseach of his party, which has more often been in minority opposition to Fianna Fáil.

The Mayo-born Kenny, 66, signaled his intentions months ago, but the 17 May announcement caught Irish political observers off guard. His leadership has suffered from bumbling a plan to institute national water charges, and the handling of a long-running police misconduct scandal.

Enda Kenny and former U.S. President Barack Obama during a St. Patrick’s Day visit to the White House.

Still, Kenny leaves a solid legacy. Here’s Stephen Collins writing in The Irish Times:

His crowning achievement was to lead the country out of the financial crisis that brought it to the brink in 2010, and preside over a government that transformed it into the fastest growing EU economy for the past three years.

Kenny’s mixture of political skill, sheer stubbornness and incredible stamina enabled him to achieve what many deemed impossible, but he never managed to win the level of public popularity achieved by some of his less successful predecessors.

His successor will have to deal with Britain’s coming withdrawal from the European Union, which could mean the return of a hard border with Northern Ireland. At the same time, the Republic’s new leader will have to navigate growing calls for the island’s political reunification.

Other big issues include a potential 2018 referendum on whether to repeal Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion, and whether to allow the country’s diaspora to vote in national elections.

Fianna Fáil could refuse to allow Kenny’s successor as party leader to also follow him as taoiseach. That would mean another national election. 

E.U. would welcome the North in United Ireland

Northern Ireland will automatically join the European Union if voters on both sides of the 1921 partition agree to the island’s political reunification.

Leaders of 27 E.U. states agreed the decision at a 29 April Brussels summit called to prepare for the United Kingdom’s departure from the bloc. Last June, U.K. voters approved Britain’s exit, or Brexit, by 52 percent to 48 percent. Nearly 56 percent of voters in Northern Ireland, however, supported remaining in the E.U.

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny urged E.U. leaders for the commitment to welcome the six counties of the north. The approved statement is now being called the Kenny text:

The European Council acknowledges that the Good Friday Agreement expressly provides for an agreed mechanism whereby a united Ireland may be brought about through peaceful and democratic means.

In this regard, the European Council acknowledges that, in accordance with international law, the entire territory of such a united Ireland would thus be part of the European Union.

A vote on Irish reunification is not scheduled at this time, and it appears unlikely to happen anytime soon. “In my view, the conditions do not exist now for a Border poll,” Kenny said after the E.U. statement.


The more immediate concern is resolving what happens with the border between Northern Ireland, as part of the departing U.K., and E.U.-member Republic of Ireland.

The border has been nearly seamless since the late 1990s, when military check points began to disappear with the easing of sectarian violence in the North. The biggest difference between the two countries is the change of currency, since the U.K. never adopted the Euro. On the Dublin to Belfast train last summer, I also noticed the automatic change of data carriers on my mobile device.

The is just one part of even thornier Irish-British trade issues.

Stormont deadline extended until June 29

In a related development this week, the U.K. parliament extended the deadline to form a new power-sharing executive in the Northern Ireland Assembly until June 29. Unionist and nationalist leaders have been unable to reach an accord since the 2 March election, in which the pro-reunification Sinn Féin party made dramatic gains in the assembly.

Since then, British PM Theresa May called for a 8 June snap election in the U.K. to bolster support for the Brexit negotiations. The election, which includes Northern Ireland, provided a handy and logical rational to delay the formation of the assembly executive.

Confused? This BBC Q & A should help.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, 2017

Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll be updating this post through the day with news of the Irish and Irish America on this special day.

Kenny urged to skip St. Paddy’s Day visit to Trump

You know global politics have entered uncharted territory when the Irish leader is urged to boycott the annual St. Patrick’s Day visit to the White House. But that’s how toxic U.S. President Donald Trump has become in the wake of slapping travel restrictions on immigrants and other visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries. A federal judge has temporarily blocked the order.

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny “will need the luck of the Irish if he is to pull off this year’s visit without significant criticism,” the Washington Post said in a wave of coverage on both side of the Atlantic about the scheduled visit. So far, Kenny insists he will fly to Washington in mid-March.

An online poll in the Dublin-based TheJournal.ie measured 34 percent of respondents saying Kenny should make the trip, compared to 33 percent believing he should dump Trump. Another 28 percent said Kenny should make the trip but voice displeasure with the policy. At New York-based Irish Central, online polling showed 47 percent support for Kenny meeting with Trump, with 27 percent opposed and 23 percent in favor of the Irish leader visiting the U.S. but not the White House. (Both poll results as of 4 February.)

Kenny was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Trump shortly after the American’s victory in November. “He is looking forward to doing business with Ireland and I asked him specifically about Patrick’s Day, he is looking forward to continuing that tradition over many years,” Kenny said.

The Irish Times editorialized that the annual visit “is not just a hooley.”

The celebrations express publicly on the part of both the Irish and the U.S. sides a commonality of interests, values, and heritage, of interconnectedness. And, importantly, a shared commitment to the North’s peace process and political reconciliation, to which this annual jamboree has made a significant contribution. …

There are other ways [than boycotting the visit] to convey to Donald Trump the conviction of our people that he has broken with some of the noblest traditions and values of his country and ours , and our determination that we will not be party internationally to his narrow “America First” unilateralist project.”

Can Ireland’s latest planning strategy ease Dublin sprawl?

The Irish government has launched a strategic planning effort to determine what social, economic and environmental conditions might look like when the country’s youngest generation reaches adulthood.

The “Ireland 2040” plan will be “formed by the people’s views on the future shape of our country, its urban and rural places” Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in a 2 February release. He added the process will seek to “avoid the planning mistakes of the past.”

The latest effort succeeds the National Spatial Strategy, which had a 2002-2020 timeline. I reported on the plan in March 2002:

Irish government officials from Dublin traveled to Healy Memorial Park in Charlestown last fall (2001) to talk about Ireland’s ambitious sustainable development plan, called the National Spatial Strategy. The plan aims to better distribute Ireland’s growing population by making key infrastructure investments in second- and third-tier towns like Charlestown that now have little to attract and retain residents. In turn, the strategy hopes to ease overcrowding in Dublin.

At the time, Ireland was enjoying its “Celtic Tiger” phase, and nobody predicted the economic collapse of five years latter. None of the 20 towns designated to become Ireland fastest growing achieved such results, Housing Minister Simon Coveney told TheJournal.ie. The result of such predictive failure is probably best captured in this Irish Independent headline about the new plan: How Dublin is eating Ireland.

An Executive Summary and other documents can be found at the Ireland 2040 website.

This Irish Independent graphic explains the headline about Dublin eating Ireland and illustrates why the Republic needs better planning.



Irish government puts new focus on arts and culture

The Irish government is launching an ambitious five-year program that “places creativity at the center of public policy.” Called Creative Ireland, the program will build on the legacy of this year’s successful 1916 centennial.

The arts initiative is based on the core proposition that participation in cultural activity drives personal and collective creativity, with significant implications for individual and societal well-being and achievement. It will have a strong focus on children.

“Creative Ireland is about placing culture at the center of our lives, for the betterment of our people and for the strengthening of our society,” Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in a news release. “Together we can do extraordinary things: we can make Ireland the first country in the world to guarantee access for every child to tuition and participation in art, music, drama and coding.”

Another of the program’s goals is to make Ireland a global hub for the production of film, television and animation. More at the Creative Ireland website, and check out this announcement video:

Pope Francis to visit Ireland in 2018, maybe the North

Pope Francis will visit Ireland in 2018, according to statements by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who has just visited the Pontiff in Rome.

Catholic bishops in the Republic of Ireland had extended an invitation to Pope Francis to visit Dublin in August 2018 for the World Meeting of Families.

The BBC reports that some Northern Ireland political leaders are already saying Francis will cross the boarder to visit somewhere in the six counties.

The last Pontiff to travel to Ireland was Pope John Paul II in 1979. Pope Francis will turn 80 on 17 December.

Enda Kenny and Pope Francis. Image from RTÉ.

Enda Kenny and Pope Francis. Image from RTÉ.

Trump to continue St. Patrick’s Day tradition at White House

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has invited Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny to the White House for St Patrick’s Day in 2017, continuing a tradition that dates to 1952. Trump and Kenny spoke with each other for about 10 minutes on 9 November.

“He understands Ireland very well, he was complimentary about the decisions made about the economy here,” Kenny told The Irish Times. “He is looking forward to doing business with Ireland and I asked him specifically about Patrick’s Day, he is looking forward to continuing that tradition over many years.”

Trump owns a golf resort in Doonbeg, County Clare, which was “buzzing with activity” the day after his election, the TheJournal.ie reported.

Read my five-part blog series about U.S.-Irish relations at St. Patrick’s Day, which explores 1916, the year of the Rising, and 25-year anniversaries in 1941, 1966 and 1991; plus 1976, the year of the American bicentennial.

Below, watch a U.S. Embassy in Ireland-produced video about the White House shamrock ceremony.

Irish opinion on Trump’s triumph

Here’s a first day sampling of Irish and Irish-American opinion about Donald Trump’s shocking presidential victory.

      • On behalf of the Government and the people of Ireland, I am pleased to offer our sincere congratulations to Donald J. Trump on his election as the 45th President of the United States.

Statement by An Taoiseach (Enda Kenny) on the election of Mr Donald J. Trump

  • The republic of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt is now the United Hates of America, held together, insofar as it will hold together at all, by fear and loathing.

Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times.

            • Five areas of immediate concern for Ireland: Undocumented Irish; multinationals; trade; border controls and visa programs; and cross Atlantic relationships.

Philip Ryan in The Irish Independent

            • Why so many Irish Americans voted for Trump? The answer I heard most often was that these voters could stomach [his] flaws because, they believed, Trump would do greater good by “draining the swamp,” that is Washington.

Niall O’Dowd in Irish Central (U.S.)

            • In comparison to Hillary Clinton, who made several visits to Northern Ireland over the past 21 years, Donald Trump is more of an unknown quantity so far as most Stormont politicians are concerned.

BBC NI Political Editor Mark Devenport

            • The election of Donald Trump … is America’s Brexit vote. He is its Putin, Orban, Erdogan, Duterte, wrapped into one unique, grotesque, autocratic form, and, yes, also a cry of despair. But caveat emptor U.S. voters have no idea what they have bought.

“They Know Not What They Do,” editorial in The Irish Times

The entrance of Trump's Doonbeg golf course in County Clare during my July visit.

The entrance of Trump’s Doonbeg golf course in County Clare during my July visit.

Ireland, Northern Ireland brace for possible Brexit

British voters will decide 23 June whether to remain in the European Union. If they opt for the so-called “Brexit,” the decision is likely to have significant impacts on Ireland and Northern Ireland, including the peace process, trade and other cross-border activity.

Here’s a sample of reporting in advance of the referendum. I’ll probably add a few more links before the vote, so email subscribers should check back for updates. Referendum results will be covered in a separate post.

Read fact-check reporting on Ireland-Northern Ireland border issues from FactCheckNIThe Journal.ie and FullFact.org.

northern-ireland-border-facebook.jpg (1200×630)

How Brexit could lead to a united Ireland – and wage cuts for thousands
From RT

Sinn Féin leaders have already signaled that if Northern Ireland is no longer part of the EU, the party will call for a vote on reunification with the 26 counties, as is their right under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Brexit could unravel Northern Ireland peace process
From Deutsche Welle (Germany)

[F]ears of border chaos may not be as far-fetched as they first appear. Even during the Troubles, people could move with relative ease between both jurisdictions due to an informal arrangement known as the Common Travel Area (CTA). But a recent report by MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee said that in the event of Brexit, the future of the CTA “would be put into question.” Irish Premier Enda Kenny recently raised the prospect of border controls being reimposed if Britain left the EU. Former UK prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair recently warned that Brexit could undermine the Northern Irish peace process and reopen the question of a united Ireland.

Brexit to prompt major cut in Irish growth forecasts, warns ESRI
From The Irish Times

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has warned that its growth forecasts for the Irish economy will be downgraded significantly if the UK votes to leave the EU. The institute said uncertainty ahead of … [the] vote had already damaged Ireland’s trade position with several headline indicators pointing to a slide in export-related activity.

Central plank of Irish foreign policy imperilled by EU plebiscite
NewsLetter (Northern Ireland)

Although a Brexit would raise questions about the future of the UK … the most dramatic immediate political tremor will be felt in Dublin. A British exit from the EU would demolish a central plank of the Republic’s foreign policy towards Northern Ireland and would also push northern nationalism towards a strategic rethink. … [A] UK exit from the EU would push Dublin towards also leaving the EU within a relatively short timeframe.