These past few days have seen the downfall of Enda Kenny as leader of Fine Gael. Following the sacking of Richard Bruton, his leadership became untenable, following the resignations of nine further members of his front bench, his leadership became impossible. What is most unfortunate about the whole affair is that, after four decades of political life, Kenny’s career should come to an end with him trying so desperately to cling to power, damaging both himself and the party in the process.
Yesterday afternoon he had an opportunity to change that. After witnessing the resignations of most of his front bench, he was due to speak for a vote of no confidence in the Taoiseach, a situation where he, not Brian Cowen, would paradoxically be at the center of the Dáil’s attention. I had hoped that he may have taken that opportunity to make a speech that would be worth capping a political career with, but unfortunately he gave the same speech in the same way he always does, a speech that reminded many why they no longer wished for him to be their leader.
The following is, in a brief form, my humble opinion of what he should have said, of the kind of speech he should have given.
“This is not a time for business as usual, and it is not a time for politics as usual. If we are to recover as a nation, if we are to leave our children the Ireland they deserve, then we cannot keep along the same political path that is so well trodden in this country. We need a class of politicians for whom the notion of putting the interests of the country above their own is not simply rhetoric. We need a class of politicians who can pass that most difficult test of leadership, stepping aside.
This morning you and I were in very similar situations, Taoiseach. We are both leaders, and we both serve those who elect us. Over these past 24 hours I have come to accept that those who elect me, the Fine Gael parliamentary party, no longer have confidence in me, and that the only honorable thing to do is to step down as leader of the party. It has been the most difficult decision of my life as a public servant, but one which has become inescapable to me if I wish to truly place the interests of my political party and the Irish public ahead of my own.
Over the course of weeks, months, and indeed years, you too must have come to the realization that the people of this nation, the people you serve, no longer have confidence in you as their leader. Beneath all the bravado, beneath all the rhetoric, deep within you you have come to the same inescapable conclusion that I have over these past few days. It is not an easy realization to come to, Taoiseach, it is that one fear that shakes a politician to his very core, and it is that one truth that is hardest for us to accept.
Tomorrow I will be stepping aside, accepting my fate and doing what is best for the country. I ask you to do the same, to resign as Taoiseach, call a general election and allow the Irish people their right to choose a new government that truly represents them. It would not be an easy decision, it would require a courage, an honesty and a decency that have been lacking in politics for far too long. It would be a selfless decision that is worthy of a true statesman, a true democrat, and a true public servant. It would be a decision that could help signal a return to those highest of standards in political life that we so often talk about but so rarely act upon. Most importantly, it is a decision which you know in your heart to be right.
Put simply, Brian, it’s time for us to go.”