All to play for on Day 22 as Enda Kenny’s gaffe count mounts

At the end of Day 21 of this campaign, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin were made to lick their wounds.
All to play for on Day 22 as Enda Kenny’s gaffe count mounts

After a couple of days of heel dragging, Kenny finally accepted he had caused controversy by doing the one thing politicians should never do. He told the truth.

The Taoiseach yesterday finally held up his hands over his “whingers” remarks.

Of course, the Irish people are whingers. We are notorious whingers, but if you are a political leader in a campaign that is not exactly going well, you don’t say it.

Having said originally the comment was directed at locals in his home town of Castlebar, Co Mayo, he later claimed he was talking about Fianna Fáil.

Finally, Kenny said he wanted to withdraw the comments.

The gaffe-prone Kenny had also declined an earlier opportunity to clarify his remarks and apologise and kill the controversy.

“I accept that I should have clarified my remarks. Mea Culpa. This is strictly a local issue.”

Kenny said it was “nothing to do with any member of the public”, adding: “I unreservedly withdraw that.”

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However, his remarks had been seized on by his political opponents.

Even his own TDs sought to disown his comments. Kerry TD Brendan Griffin on RTÉ’s Drivetime made it clear where he stood on the whingers saga.

“No the people of Kerry are most certainly not whingers. The Taoiseach has moved to clarify the remarks,” he said in a tone which was far harsher than the words spoken.

But yesterday was one of those days Kenny, I’m sure, wished he didn’t get out of bed.

In addition to having to issue his Mea Culpa, both he and Martin were confronted by angry protestors on the campaign trail.

Kenny had to deal with a group of anti-water protestors at an event in Waterford.

The under-fire Fine Gael leader had to contend with loud shouts of “Kenny, Kenny, Kenny, out, out, out”.

He had just arrived at the offices of Eistec when the protestors began their heckling.

Minor instances of “argy-bargy” broke out as gardaí attempted to clear a path for Mr Kenny’s car.

Meanwhile, Martin’s on-street walkabout in the Dublin suburb of Crumlin was interrupted and curtailed after he was engaged by a small group of anti- austerity charges protesters.

About to start a street canvass with local councillor Catherine Ardagh, Mr Martin was subjected to repeated chanting from the group which arrived at her constituency office.

The protestors repeatedly chanted: “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.”

As tensions escalated, Mr Martin was ushered into a nearby car with Ms Ardagh.

At this point, the protesters stood in front of the car and refused to move for a number of moments.

Mr Martin’s car then travelled to a nearby street but again the car was blocked by the protestors for a short time.

Mr Martin then attempted again to continue his canvass, walking down the village’s Main St.

He walked in and out of businesses and local shops trying to canvass but the protestors continued to heckle.

He also claimed they were being “undemocratic” by trying to prevent him walking the streets.

Meanwhile, the left-wing collective yesterday confirmed that they would support Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams for Taoiseach.

But, given the first item on the agenda in left-wing politics is the split, there is no hope of that happening.

But, attention now shifts to tonight’s make or break final leaders’ debate on RTÉ’s Primetime.

Tánaiste Joan Burton, of the four leaders involved, needs to have a good night.

She failed to land any blows in the first two debates, and was widely seen as being the poorest performer in the seven-way event in Limerick last week.

Burton is not only fighting for her own seat, but she is fighting to save her beleaguered party, which appears to be facing wipeout. Kenny, too, has ground to make up given the faltering nature of the Fine Gael campaign and has to avoid the kind of clangers he has engaged in.

For Martin, he can expect his record in government up to 2011 to come under sharper focus as his opponents seek to fix the boundary to the march of his party.

All to play for on Day 22.

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