The man opinion polls are predicting will be Ireland’s next Taoiseach was in a damp Clonmel last Friday afternoon to meet his South Tipperary supporters.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, flanked by general election candidates Deputy Tom Hayes and Cllr Michael Murphy, spoke to an enthusiastic crowd from the steps of Hearn’s Hotel before going on a walk through the town centre to talk to local people, popping into several O’Connell Street shops and having a quick look at the Fine Gael election motorhome.
A busy day campaigning saw the Fine Gael leader arrive late to Clonmel, but the crowd of supporters and party faithful gathered outside Hearn’s Hotel did not have their enthusiasm lessened by the chill wait and cheered loudly when Deputy Hayes introduced them to “the next Taoiseach of Ireland.”
He quipped that six years ago people in Clonmel would not have known the man, but on Friday they had “blocked up the streets of Clonmel with the crowd of people who want to meet” Deputy Kenny.
For his part, Deputy Kenny did not disappoint his supporters. He set out his party’s election manifesto, but also urged supporters not to start celebrating until February 26.
“I want to send out a clear message: if the people elect Fine Gael to government we will lead with truth, integrity, honesty and hard work,” he said. He continued, saying his party was the only one with a clear plan for Ireland that would support small businesses, create jobs and give young people hope. He said Fine Gael would ‘keep taxes low and growth high,’ and said the party had no intention of lessening standards of front line services like health care, gardai or local authorities.
Deputy Kenny acknowledged there were issues with the hospital in Clonmel and said his party wanted to change the way the health system operates, keeping services as close to the people as possible.
He urged the party faithful to use the next two weeks to get out and sell their message.
“If you give me these two boys from South Tipperary I will see they work in South Tipperary’s interest and the country’s interest,” Deputy Kenny declared to cheers from his listeners.
Before embarking on his walk-about he had a special mention for his cousin-by-marriage, John, and his old school friend Michael McGarry, who were both in the crowd.
While Deputy Kenny declined to be interviewed while in Clonmel he did answer a question from Loreto student Molly Kenny who wanted to know about Fine Gael’s plans for third level and possible fees.