Enda rises to the occasion on his (and the nation’s) big day

SOMETHING of a revolution occurred at the GPO yesterday and it made the best birthday present ever for Enda Kenny.

Not since the official 1916 Easter Rising commemoration was revived six years ago had a Taoiseach been applauded as he emerged from between the famous pillars.

In fact, on one occasion a few years ago the then incumbent didn’t even dare brave the public after this most public of ceremonies but escaped out a side door trembling like a British cavalry man trapped in the toilets when Pearse and friends came barging through the building.

But for Enda, new to this business of military parades and cavalcades, uniforms, flags and salutes, this was a baptism of friendly fire.

An eager crowd milled around after the ceremonies, waiting for the Taoiseach to finish his private meetings with relatives of the Rising heroes, and gathered in tight around him as he made his way to his waiting car.

They shook his hand, detained him for chats, wished him well, planted toddlers in his arms and snapped enough photographs to make a Hollywood star dizzy. And they didn’t even know it was his birthday.

Chances are, if they knew yesterday was his big 6-0 (as well as Eamon Gilmore’s 56th as it happened), they’d have hoisted him shoulder-high and run the length of O’Connell Street singing ‘for he’s a jolly good fellow’.

When the subject of his big day came up, a chuffed Taoiseach blushed and declared it a privilege to mark the day honouring such a significant date in Irish history — although one suspects the cake, family pampering and bracing walk awaiting him on his return to Castlebar in the afternoon ran a close second.

Not only was April 24 the first day of the 1916 Rising but, obviously having studied Tom Crean’s recent homage to Charlie Bird, Enda informed us that it was also the exact same date that Crean and Ernest Shackleton staged their dramatic escape from Elephant Island.

For those who don’t know, they (Crean and Shackleton, not Bird and entourage) headed for South Georgia on a near-suicidal 800-mile voyage across treacherous seas and through merciless weather in a rowing boat fit for nothing more than scaring ducks in a park pond. “They made it through,” said Enda. “I hope we do as well.”

Clearly in philosophical form, he also quoted another great leader, one Bill Clinton, who, when asked how he felt turning 50, replied: “Well, it’s like this — I’ve had more yesterdays than I’ve had tomorrows.”

Given the reception Enda had at the GPO, a few more tomorrows like yesterday would be a gift indeed.

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