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Enda Kenny TD

Assumed office 
2 June 2002
Preceded by Michael Noonan

In office
15 December 1994 – 6 June 1997
Preceded by Charlie McCreevy
Succeeded by Jim McDaid

Assumed office 
12 November 1975
Preceded by Henry Kenny
Constituency Mayo
Mayo West (1975–1997)

Born 24 April 1951 (1951-04-24) (age 58)
Castlebar, County Mayo
Nationality Irish
Political party Fine Gael
Spouse(s) Fionnuala O'Kelly
Children 3
Alma mater St Patrick's College of Education, Dublin,
University College Galway
Religion Roman Catholic[1]

Enda Kenny (born 24 April 1951) is an Irish politician and leader of the Fine Gael party and Leader of the Opposition in Dáil Éireann. He has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for Mayo since 1975, having succeeded his father Henry Kenny.[2] Kenny served as Minister for Tourism and Trade from 1994 to 1997.


Early and private life

Enda Kenny was born in Castlebar, County Mayo in 1951. The third child in a family of five, he was educated locally at St. Patrick's national school in Cornanool and St. Gerald's College (De La Salle) in Castlebar. Kenny later attended St Patrick's College of Education in Dublin and University College Galway. He later worked as a primary school teacher.

Kenny has been married to Fionnuala O'Kelly since 1992; they have three children. The couple met in Leinster House where O'Kelly worked as a press officer for Fianna Fáil. She later worked with RTÉ.

Kenny is a keen supporter of his native Mayo Gaelic football team. His father, Henry Kenny, won an All-Ireland medal with the inter-county team in 1936.

Early political career

From an early age Kenny was exposed to politics as his father, Henry Kenny, became a Fine Gael TD in 1954. In the early 1970s he became directly involved in politics when he started helping his father with constituency clinics. In 1975 Henry Kenny, who was at this stage a Parliamentary Secretary in the government, died after a short battle with cancer. The Fine Gael party wanted one of his sons to stand as their candidate at the subsequent by-election, and so Enda Kenny was chosen. He was elected on the first count with 52% of the vote, and at 24 he was the youngest member of the 20th Dáil.[3]

Kenny remained on the backbenches of the Dáil for almost a decade. He was appointed party spokesperson firstly on youth affairs and sport, then western development, however, he failed to build a national profile as he concentrated more on constituency matters. Kenny was left out in the cold when Garret FitzGerald became Taoiseach for the first time in 1981 and again in 1982. He was, however, appointed as a member of the Fine Gael delegation at the New Ireland Forum in 1983 and later served on the British-Irish Parliamentary Association. In 1986 he became a Minister of State at the Departments of Education and Labour. Fine Gael lost the 1987 general election resulting in Kenny being on the opposition benches for the next seven years. In spite of this his national profile was raised as he served in a number of positions on the party's front bench, including Education, Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. He was also the Fine Gael Chief Whip for a short period.

Government minister

In late 1994 the Fianna FáilLabour Party government collapsed; however, no general election was called. Instead a Fine GaelLabour PartyDemocratic Left "Rainbow Coalition" came to power. Kenny, as Fine Gael chief whip, was a key member of the team, which negotiated the programme for government with the other two parties prior to the formation of the new government. Under Taoiseach John Bruton, Kenny joined the cabinet and was appointed Minister for Tourism and Trade. During his tenure as minister, Ireland saw a significant growth in tourism business and in its international trade position. As minister he chaired the European Union Council of Trade Ministers during Ireland's six-month Presidency of the European Council as well as co-chairing a round of the World Trade Organization talks in 1996. Among Kenny's other achievements were the rejuvenation of the Saint Patrick's Day parade in Dublin and the successful negotiations to bring a stage of the 1998 Tour de France to Ireland. In 1997 the government was defeated at the general election and Kenny returned to the opposition benches.

Fine Gael leader

In 2001 John Bruton resigned as leader of Fine Gael following a vote of no confidence in his ability. Kenny was one of a number of candidates who stood in the subsequent leadership election, promising to "electrify the party". In the final ballot it was Michael Noonan who emerged victorious (it is Fine Gael's custom not to publish ballot results for leadership elections). Noonan subsequently failed to give a spokesperson's assignment to Kenny.

In September 2002, Kenny was accused of making racist remarks, when he used the word 'nigger' during a racist joke in relation to Patrice Lumumba, the assassinated first Prime Minister of Congo. Kenny was subsequently condemned by race campaigners.[4]

At the 2002 general election Fine Gael suffered its worst electoral performance ever, losing 23 seats, a figure larger than expected and with its overall vote down 5%. Kenny himself came close to losing his seat and even went so far as to prepare a concession speech. In the end he won the third seat in the constituency. Michael Noonan resigned as Fine Gael leader on the night of the result, an action which triggered another leadership election. Protest meetings were held by members of the party against the speed with which the leadership election had been called and the failure to broaden the franchise to the membership. It was suggested that it was foolish to choose a leader before conducting an electoral post-mortem.

Kenny once again contested the leadership and emerged successful on that occasion. On becoming leader he faced an unenviable task as his demoralised party faced the popular Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, with 31 TDs. In the beginning his leadership style was also criticised. The tide began to turn for Fine Gael in 2003 as the Fianna Fáil-led government's popularity took a downturn. Fine Gael's membership increased and the party became a much more united entity. Kenny's first major televised conference speech in November 2003 was well received by the media and, for many, marked a turn in Fine Gael's fortunes as it began to offer more vigorous opposition to Ahern's government.

Fine Gael out-performed expectations at the 2004 Local and European elections, which saw Fine Gael increase it representation from 4 MEPs of 15 from Ireland, to 5 from 13. This was the first time Fine Gael beat Fianna Fáil in a national election since 1927.

In July 2005, five men from the north of Kenny's Mayo constituency were jailed over their opposition to the Fianna Fáil-led government's plans for the Corrib gas project. One of the men, Philip McGrath, worked for Kenny as an election agent for Rossport during general elections. Unlike his fellow Mayo Fine Gael TD, Michael Ring, Kenny was cautious about backing the men's stance (Ring would later be forced to adopt the same policy).[5] The Shell to Sea campaign that was founded to help release the men and get the government to change its mind shut down work on the project for fifteen months. When Gardaí were brought in to remove protesters with tactics that saw many hospitalised, Kenny said: "The law must be obeyed."[6]

In November 2005, Kenny called for the abolition of compulsory Irish for the Leaving Certificate examinations. This was opposed by all the major Irish language organisations.[7] In March 2006 Kenny was elected Vice-President of the European People's Party (EPP), the largest European political group to which Fine Gael is affiliated.[8] In his speech to the EPP he stated that Fine Gael would be in Government within 2 years.

During the first half of 2006 Kenny went aggressively after a more populist line on the cost of immigration, street crime, paedophilia and homeowner's rights. A graphic description of a mugging he had experienced was given to the Dáil in the context of a crime discussion, only for it to be revealed a day later that the incident had occurred in Kenya not Ireland.[9]

2007 general election

Under Kenny the Fine Gael Party agreed to enter a pre-election pact with the Labour Party in order to offer the electorate an alternative coalition government at the 2007 general election held on 24 May. The so-called 'Mullingar Accord' was agreed in September 2004 following the European and Local elections that year.[10] The Green Party also signalled via the media to be in favour of membership of such a coalition government after the election. They refused to commit to an agreement prior to polling day however.

Enda Kenny's leadership has attempted to define Fine Gael as a party of the progressive centre. Its policy initiatives have concentrated on value for money, consumer rights, civil partnerships, reform of public spending, reward and enterprise and preventative health care policy. The party has sought to retake its former mantle as the law-and-order party committed to defending the institutions of the state. At the Fine Gael Ardfheis in March 2007 Kenny outlined his platform for the forthcoming general election entitled the 'Contract for a Better Ireland.'[11] The main aspects of this 'contract' included: 2,300 more hospital beds, 2,000 more Gardaí, tougher jail sentences and tougher bail for criminals, free health insurance for all children under 16 and lower income tax.

The Fine Gael campaign was generally regarded as a well-organised and energetic one, which focussed on Kenny's strengths. However, by the end of the campaign Fianna Fáil found its feet and in the final week managed to turn the spotlight on Kenny's lack of cabinet experience. Bertie Ahern was perceived by many to have comfortably beaten Kenny in the pre-election Leaders' debate.[12]

When the votes were counted it emerged that Fine Gael had made large gains, increasing its number of seats by twenty to give a total of 51 seats in the new Dáil.[13] But Kenny's so-called 'Alliance for Change' did not have enough seats to form a majority in the new Dáil, as neither the Labour Party nor the Greens made gains. Despite predictions to the contrary, the Fianna Fáil vote recovered sufficiently to bring it to 78 seats, and a return to government for then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.[14]

Kenny is currently the longest-serving TD in Dáil Éireann still in office, and is the incumbent Father of the Dáil.

In December 2008, Vincent Browne has criticised Kenny for not having a grasp of the issues, notably of economic issues on which he is way out of his depth.[15]


  1. ^ "Enda Kenny". Katharine Blake. 27 July 2007.  
  2. ^ "Mr. Enda Kenny". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 24 September 2009.  
  3. ^ "Enda Kenny". Retrieved 24 September 2009.  
  4. ^ "Fury at Kenny 'joke' spreads". The Guardian. 15 September 2002. Retrieved 13 October 2009.  
  5. ^ "SF accused of hijacking Corrib oil pipeline protest". Irish Independent. 21 October 2006.  
  6. ^ "Serious confrontation at Corrib gas site". RTÉ News. 10 November 2006. Retrieved 9 April 2008.  
  7. ^ "150 protest against Fine Gael's Irish policy". RTÉ News. 16 November 2005.  
  8. ^ "Enda Kenny elected Vice-President of EPP". RTÉ News. 31 March 2006.  
  9. ^ "Kenny's comment on attack 'misleading'". Irish Independent. 1 July 2006.  
  10. ^ "Opposition leaders unveil 'Mullingar Accord'". RTÉ News. 6 September 2004. Retrieved 9 April 2008.  
  11. ^ "FG Ard-Fheis: Contract for a Better Ireland". RTÉ News. 31 March 2007. Retrieved 9 April 2008.  
  12. ^ "News on Two". RTÉ News. 17 May 2007.,null,230.  
  13. ^ "RTÉ Election 2007 - Election news and results". RTÉ News. Retrieved 9 April 2008.  
  14. ^ "Ahern names new Cabinet". RTÉ News. 14 June 2007. Retrieved 9 April 2008.  
  15. ^ "We are stuck with inept trio and a dismal alternative". The Irish Times. 31 December 2008.  

External links

Preceded by
Henry Kenny
Fine Gael Teachta Dála for Mayo West
Succeeded by
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
New constituency
Fine Gael Teachta Dála for Mayo
Political offices
Preceded by
George Birmingham
Minister of State at the Department of Education
Succeeded by
Frank Fahey
Minister of State at the Department of Labour
Succeeded by
Office abolished
Preceded by
Charlie McCreevy
Minister for Tourism and Trade
Succeeded by
Jim McDaid
Preceded by
Michael Noonan
Leader of the Opposition
Party political offices
Preceded by
Michael Noonan
Leader of Fine Gael
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn
Baby of the Dáil
Succeeded by
Síle de Valera
Preceded by
Séamus Pattison
Father of the Dáil

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