#Ploughing16: Taoiseach hints that he will be staying on as party leader until 2018 as he 'focuses on horizon'

Enda Kenny picking up 14mo Chloe Mahon, Millball, Offaly when she arrived out see her father Brian Mahon. Pic: Dan Linehan

“This not a time to mess around,” Taosieach Enda Kenny proclaimed to a welly clad and rain drenched bunch who had made their way into the Fine Gael tent at the National Ploughing Championships.

Before leaving Government Buildings for the firm Co Offaly soil, Mr Kenny had hinted to journalists he would be staying put as party leader until 2018.

At the ploughing yesterday Mr Kenny seemed to be waiting around for the end of the world as not even rain of a biblical scale would cut short his annual pilgrimage to every tent, stall, and shed.

A number of his minders looked less than impressed and even less prepared in suits and dress shoes as they trudged after the Taoiseach who pressed the flesh, lifted babies, and made it clear he is going nowhere.

Mr Kenny’s day at the ploughing started at a place most visitors to the annual day out don’t manage to see — the serious side of the event — the ploughing competitions themselves.

Before his arrival the gang of photographers, cameramen and reporters were also reminded of the seriousness of the competition with a stern caution.

Pointing to a fresh-cut channel through the soil, assistant managing director of National Ploughing Association Anne Marie McHugh warned that anyone caught treading over the line would not step foot into the event again for some time.

Allowances were of course made for Mr Kenny who picked his way over the stubbly field to meet competitor Brian Mahon.

But as the ploughman and the politician studied the furrow, 14-month-old Chloe Mahon, who spotted her father, made a waddle and a dash for both men.

All eyes were fixed on the toddler in her pink romper as she bolted, floundered, and fell before recovering to make it into the outstretched arms of the leader of the country.

Mr Kenny lifted the child high in the air before two men and a baby were joined by her mother Michelle for a family photo.

The crowd gathered to get a selfie or a word with the leader who again seemed to make a point of hanging around, he was in no hurry and was going nowhere before every calloused hand was shook.

“Is it a photograph you want lads?” a burly garda asked two eager looking men, “stand your ground” he added, something Enda has been doing lately as pressure from the backbench resistance movement and wannabe leaders mounts.

Leaving the field Mr Kenny bumped into fellow ploughing enthusiast and Leinster House member Danny Healy-Rae.

Mr Healy-Rae didn’t seem as excited as the rest of the crowd. “Sure don’t I see him all the time in Leinster House,” he said before exchanging the usual pleasantries. “I know this man from Kilgarvan, how are the price of cattle down there?” Mr Kenny jokingly asked before inquiring after his brother who almost made it onto government, almost.

Back in the main trade area, Enda braved the cutting rain to visit the stands of the various farming organisations and associations, adding their gripes and grievances to the already lengthy list of things he wants to get done before he stands down.

With the amount he has now vowed to fix before finally letting someone take over the Fine Gael reigns his leadership could end up rivaling the lengthy stays of Fidel Castro or Robert Mugabe.

Arriving at his party tent flanked by junior agriculture minister Andrew Doyle and chairman of the Fine Gael parliamentary party Martin Hayden, the Taoiseach made it known now is not a time for a shake-up of leadership, he has a long list — it includes 600 commitments — to tick off first.

“I want you to understand this, that the agenda that I have set is about dealing with this country’s problems, with our nation’s problems, to have a budget that will stand up, to fix our housing problems, to fix our homeless problem, to fix our health problems, to fix our mental health problems, to deal with the outcome of Brexit, to deal with the many challenges that are there,” and on he went mentioning the Eighth Amendment, older people and rural dwellers.

“I want, everybody, everybody to put their shoulder to the wheel of Fine Gael in Government.”

Above all making Ireland the best small county in the world is top of the Kenny agenda and “you are part of that, I am part of that and I intend to lead the country to where we can see the benefits. This is not a time to mess around, this a time for focus on the horizon.”

It is clear Mr Kenny does not see retirement anywhere on his horizon just yet.

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