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Take me to your leader
As the General Election looms, many polls suggest Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny is the next Taoiseach in waiting. So what is he really like? And where does he stand on the issues that matter to Hot Press readers?
Jason O'Toole, 08 May 2007
They say you can tell a lot by a person’s handshake – particularly a politician’s. In fact, Primary Colours, which is about Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign, has a section on the art of handshaking.
In it, the “anonymous” author describes the former US president’s techniques for the simple handshake – if Clinton touched you below the elbow, while shaking your hand, it meant he liked you, but if he touched you above the shoulder it meant that he would keep you at a distance.
Clinton reserved a special two-hand clasp for those he didn’t know but “wanted to share something emotional with”. And it’s this type of handshake I receive when I am introduced to Enda Kenny: he grasps my right hand with both of his for several lingering seconds, before warmly welcoming me into his gargantuan office.
There is no doubting that the Mayo deputy has cultivated a new persona and image since being elevated to leader of the opposition, inspired by Clinton and JFK. But these aren’t Kenny's only U.S. influences. It was the arch right-winger Newt Gingrich who penned the “Contract With America”, which Kenny openly admits inspired his recent election manifesto. Entitled “The Contract”, it is a list of 14 issues on which Kenny promises to deliver if Fine Gael get into government. If they don’t achieve these goals, the 56-year-old is promising not to seek re-election. “I am putting my neck on the line with this contract,” proffers Kenny.
Born in Castlebar, Kenny was only 24 when he was elected to the Dáil in a by-election caused by the death of his father in 1975. In 1986, hr became Minister of State at the Department of Education and Labour; he then went on the serve in a number of positions on the party’s front bench, including a stint as Fine Gael Chief Whip.
Kenny is married to Fionnuala O’Kelly – who worked as a press officer for Fianna Fáil in Leinster House – and they have three children...
JASON O’TOOLE: How did you come up with your “contract” for the Irish electorate?