Speech by Brendan Howlin TD on the resignation of Enda Kenny
Issued 13 June 2017
I want to wish you well on your retirement as Taoiseach.
Others, I have no doubt, will use the opportunity provided by this debate to attack you and your legacy.
I won’t do that.
But neither will I embarrass either of us by presenting a hagiography of you!
We served, of course, in two Governments together.
In the 1990s, during the very successful Rainbow Coalition, you served as Minister for Tourism and Trade.
From Cabinet meetings back then, I still recall a strength that in many ways has later come to define your time as Taoiseach.
That, quite simply, is your boundless enthusiasm.
You are of course a politician of great skill and determination.
But I think it is the hopeful, happy Enda Kenny that the Irish people most readily identify with.
Back in 2011, that attitude was exactly what our country needed.
Every day back then seemed to begin with a depressing litany of economic statistics, and with the harrowing stories of the impact of the crisis on people and families the length and breadth of this country.
Some people couldn’t quite understand your high-fives with school kids back then.
But I think you saw two things quite clearly.
Firstly, you recognised that after the dark would come the dawn.
And secondly, you recognised that, in the meantime, we needed some superficial light to keep us going.
Some have chosen to caricature your time as Taoiseach as encompassing the entire crisis.
This is nothing but cynical revisionism.
It suits some of those who made no contribution to the recovery to suggest that you were in charge of the downfall too.
And of course Fianna Fáil now like to imagine that time only began in 2011.
But it didn’t.
Their crashing of our economy, and their infliction of the most vicious elements of the crisis period should not be forgotten.
That may be the story they wish to present.
But it won’t be what history records. And it’s not true.
We didn’t get everything right during our last time in Government together.
And we certainly didn’t agree on everything during that time.
But our central role was to fix the mess that had been created by others.
As you step down today, that remains the greatest achievement of your time as Taoiseach.
And I believe it will be recognised as such.
While the economy dominated much time after the 2011 election, that was not the only area in which you have left a lasting impact.
In July 2011, you addressed this House in stark terms.
As you said back then, “The Vatican’s reaction was to parse and analyze the Cloyne Report with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer … this calculated, withering position being the polar opposite of the radicalism, humility and compassion upon which the Roman Church was founded”.
That speech made its way around the world in no time at all.
Rightly so – when you spoke, you spoke on behalf of not only the Government, but on behalf of our people.
And it wasn’t the last time that words you expressed on behalf of our people would travel in that way.
For a man who is sometimes derided for your folksy charms, you have certainly known how to speak with impact when you want to.
Abortion and marriage equality were difficult issues for you.
Labour had a strong position on legislating for the X case, and on holding a referendum on marriage equality.
You didn’t agree on either to begin with.
But it is to your credit that once you changed your view, you stuck to it, regardless of the political cost.
And of course you step down today untainted by corruption.
In other countries, that might not merit a mention.
But in this one it does.
That you didn’t see power as an opportunity for personal enrichment is worthy of mention, in sharp contrast to some of your predecessors.
On a personal level, Taoiseach, I want to wish you very well indeed.
You have done the state, and the people of Mayo much service for many years.
I have no doubt Fionnuala is looking forward to having you home a little more often.
And equally, that Aoibhinn, Ferdia and Naoise will enjoy a bit more time with their Dad from now on.
Taoiseach: is leor ó mhór a dícheall, agus tá do dhícheall déanta agat.
Thank you for your service, and good luck and good health to you and yours in the years to come.