The “State Of Enda”

No real comments on the budget tonight, plenty of other, more knowledgeable people have given their say and will do so a lot over the next few days. It’s bad, very bad, but we can all see that for ourselves. Instead, I’d like to say a few words about the “State of the Nation” speech that Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave last night.

It was poor, made worse by the fact that the Taoiseach really can, and should, do better than this.

What was needed for this speech was emotion, some genuine feeling in the words, something to stir the blood. Something like his speech in regards the Vatican only a short time ago. What we got was a drawling, punctuated statement of fact, in a monotone voice, that made the viewers miss sentences with how boring it all was. It was just not interesting, not worthy of note. There was nothing to make your heart rise.

The wording was bland, the structure stuttered, many pauses and beats. The tone was overly condescending towards the viewer, too many direct statements of things that we are all well aware of, said in such a fashion that Kenny appeared to almost be a disapproving parent trying desperately to explain something very simple to the cretins on the other side of the camera. What we needed was strong words, a real voice of leadership, a narrative that spoke directly to the people, didn’t coddle them, or try to anyway.

The speech contained obvious falsehoods and misleading statements, most notable for me the attempt to cast initiatives like the Jobbridge scheme, an idea full of holes and deficiencies, as positive job growth.

The whole thing has the feel of a Fine Gael party political broadcast, with little evidence of the coalition partners having any real impact on the text, other than some throwaways mention of Gilmore. In fact, this was exactly the kind of thing that Kenny was putting out during their election cycle, right down to the same old sound bytes about Ireland being “the best small nation to do business in”.

It was all rather pointless. We learned nothing new from it, and gained no sense of hope, of determination ,of understanding as to why all of this was happening, to us, under the leadership of this distant seeming figure.

I suppose that’s the Catch-22 in this situation. People flaked Cowen for not telling the people what was going on, for not making an address like this. But Kenny has, and the reaction is one of disappointment. Many of those who called for Cowen to do something like this in the past, like Ray D’Arcey for example, had little to criticise Kenny with today, having gotten exactly what they wanted, yet not happy with it not being what they really needed.

And of course, with the myriad of cuts aimed at those most vulnerable in society today, and the story of Kenny’s personal intervention for a former PR advisor in regards breaching the set pay cap, the whole thing reeked of hypocrisy. The crisis is not our fault and they will try and protect us, yet we will bear the burden regardless, our sick, our unemployed, our families.

And the reference to the Anglo-Irish treaty, in the wake of news that the EU may push for a referendum on giving substantial economic control to Brussels on a more permanent basis, was unwise. The Sinn Fein press releases right themselves on that one.

It was a poor speech, one that was unnecessary and has done more harm than good for Kenny, Fine Gael, and the budget. Now we move into the truly rocky territory for this government, the honeymoon a distant memory. The real term starts now for Kenny, Gilmore and co.

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