During the boom, then taoiseach Bertie Ahern was, in his own eyes, Ireland’s last socialist, a claim widely lampooned as unbelievable, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.
During the recovery, it seems current incumbent Enda Kenny has adopted an equally social outlook, which, just like his predecessor, is causing more than a few raised eyebrows from an unconvinced public.
In recent months, the Fine Gael leader has peppered his speeches with references to conversations he apparently has had with voters.
Two pints man was — twice, seemingly — convinced of Irish Water’s value when the Taoiseach bumped into him in a bar and explained his drinks would pay charges “for 10 weeks”.
A builder was so happy with the recovery he told Mr Kenny: “It’s great to hear the sound of buckets rattling around again.”
And, at Fine Gael’s presidential dinner on Saturday, yet another character was nudged forward — again with no name, description, or contact details, but coincidentally being just what was needed to show how Government policies are helping everyday people.
As he discussed the economy, Mr Kenny strayed from the script to tell the tale of an unidentified homeless man he “sat on a bench for 20 minutes” with while strolling around Merrion Square in Dublin. Just like Ireland, Mr Kenny said, the unidentified man is “coming out of a trough” and “into a better place”.
While the Fine Gael leader’s conversation with one of the thousands of homeless people who are not part of the recovery is laudable if genuine, one party member replied, when asked for a name, said: “I don’t think the Taoiseach even has it.”
Meanwhile, as the Fine Gael dinner continued with countless post-election economic promises, the Simon Community had its own view of Mr Kenny’s socialising.
While not questioning whether the conversation really happened, the group asked if any detailed proposal on how to address homelessness had been outlined — other than the longer-term view that housing supply “is the real problem here”, it hadn’t — before noting that the “situation is getting worse by the day”, with “140 new people in emergency accommodation in September alone” and 5,000 in similar situations overall.
Mr Ahern’s suggestion that he was a modern-day Che was believed by few and mocked by many.
Perhaps if Mr Kenny put the necessary services in place to ensure people in crisis homeless situations are able — to paraphase Fine Gael’s new slogan — to secure their own recovery, he would not have to resort to conversations with nameless people to underline how Ireland is better offer keeping the current coalition in situ.
Two pints man is no doubt in agreement.
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