Shotguns, muggings, high fives, and Nokias – here's what you may not know on An Taoiseach's ruby anniversary
On November 12th, 1975, Enda Kenny was elected to the Dáil for the very first time in a by-election in the Mayo West constituency. Taking up the seat left vacant by his late father Henry, who had passed away after a short battle with cancer, the young Fine Gael politician would start a political career that would see him become leader of the country in 2011.
But if a week is a long time in politics, on his ruby anniversary as an elected official, it bears repeating that Mr Kenny’s journey to the top hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Here are 40 things you may not know about an Taoiseach on the 40th anniversary of his election to the Dáil. An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny – the good, the bad, and the FamousBirthdays.com...
1. Despite being 24 when he was elected, having qualified and worked as a primary-school teacher, he didn’t have his first alcoholic beverage until the age of 28 – served in the Dáil bar, no less. But he quickly became accustomed to the Leinster House drinking culture, quipping “In those days, you’d hear The Rose of Tralee on a Tuesday evening at six o’clock, wafting from the Dáil bar.”
2. He is married to Fionnuala O’Kelly, who he met in Leinster House – while she was working as a Fianna Fáil press officer.
3. He popped the question to Fionnuala on Inis Oírr. Once she accepted, Enda recalls going “down the aisle like the hammers of hell.” Their wedding reception was held in Le Coq Hardi in Dublin 4.
4.The Taoiseach’s BPFF (best political friend forever/for now) is Senator Paddy Burke, Cathoairleach of the Seanad and proud Mayo man.
5. His maternal grandfather was a lighthouse keeper in Loophead, Co Clare.
6. He likes to use his hands and his propensity to high-five anyone he meets is well documented in a the EndasHighFives tumblr account.
7. He almost lost his seat in the 1989 general election, amid the ongoing rod-licence controversy.
8. And again in 2002, when things looked so close that he wrote a concession speech.
9. He played Gaelic football for his local club, Islandeady, of which he was named the president for life – you can take a look at his ball-handling skills here. His son Naoise won an All-Ireland hurling medal, while his father won one for Mayo in 1936. Fionnuala, his wife, also has connections to the GAA, as her father claimed an All-Ireland medal for Kerry in 1953.
11. The Taoiseach eats porridge with honey and raisins or bananas every morning at 6.30am.
12. In 2005, he appeared on RTÉ’s The Restaurant as the surprise celebrity chef in the show’s third season. Of his wild Atlantic salmon main, the late Paolo Tulio said “It was overcooked and hard, I just couldn’t eat it.” The critics awarded the Taoiseach a score of two stars out of five.
13. He is into his fitness and could be our fittest Taoiseach yet – he cycled the 180km Ring of Kerry last year.
14. For a long time he was considered something of a Smartphone Luddite, always seen with an old-school Nokia handset. The phone was finally decommissioned when he dropped it into a sink.
15. When addressing the public in July 2012, he proved he knows a thing or two about semantic communication when he said, “Generally when people speak to each other they use words."
16. The Taoiseach is 5ft10 tall.
17. One of his most enduring phrases is the term he coined, ‘The best small country in the world to do business’, which is often abbreviated to #TBSCITWTDB.
18. When asked about his stance on same-sex marriage by TV3 journalist Ursula Halligan, he infamously nearly tripped over a flower pot.
20. A five-year-old boy named Oisín once paid him fiver to get the go ahead with the DART Underground.
21. On a visit to UCD’s Belfield campus in 2013 to open the new student centre, disgruntled students attempted to pelt the Taoiseach with eggs while he made his address.
22. He has gone on record in the Dáil to say that he once shot rats with a shotgun through a window while working as a primary-school teacher in the Glenisland School in Castlebar.
23. When in opposition, he chastised the government in a Dáil debate about rampant violent crime in Ireland by recounting how he could never forget the time he was mugged by drug-fuelled knife-wielding assailants – though this had happened 12 years previously. And in Kenya.
24. His daughter, Aoibhinn, is currently working for the Web Summit.
25. The walls of his office in government buildings are adorned with photos of his meetings with the American president, Barack Obama.
26. He is a noted fan of hill walking, and has climbed Croagh Patrick more than 100 times, and reached the summit of Kilimanjaro once.
27. He reportedly loves Bruce Springsteen.
28. At just under 59 years and 11 months on accession, he is the second-oldest person to have assumed the office of Taoiseach for the first time, the oldest being Seán Lemass.
29. In 2011, ahead of the budget, the Taoiseach addressed the nation to inform the people of Ireland that the forthcoming budget “will be tough,” and that it “had to be.” This was only the sixth time a Taoiseach had made a national address to the public, and was the second most watched TV programme of the year.
30. In September 2002, Kenny was accused of making racist remarks after he used the N-word at a dinner attended by party members and journalists. During an anecdote about a holiday in Portugal, he said a Moroccan barman 'with shiny teeth' had been asked why a cocktail was called a 'Lumumba' and replied it was named after "some nigger who died dans la guerre," referring to Patrice Lumumba, the assassinated Prime Minister of Congo. Matters were made worse when it emerged that several of Lumumba's relatives, including a son and several grandchildren, lived in Tallaght.
31. He has an excellent working relationship with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has previously back him in general elections. Both Merkel’s CDU party and Fine Gael are members of the centre-right European People’s Party, and because seating at their meetings is always arranged alphabetically, the pair are often sitting side by side.
32. In 2010, Kenny survived a vote of no confidence and attempted coup by other members of the Fine Gael front bench.
33. He’s considerably better known than the other Enda Kenny – an Australian folk singer.
34. When Kenny first entered politics in 1975, he was the youngest member of Dáil Éireann. His first role as a backbencher was to act as the Fine Gael spokesman on Youth Affairs and Sport.
35. While acting as the Tourism & Trade Minister in John Bruton’s government between 1994 and 1995, he is credited with revitalising the Dublin city St Patrick’s Day Parade and for bringing stages of the Tour de France to Ireland.
36. As a career politician with 40 years under his belt, Kenny is now the longest-serving TD currently in the Dáil.
37. In the Chinese horoscope, he was born in the Year of the Cat. In the Vietnamese horoscope, he was born as a metal cat, allegedly displaying resilient and strong characteristics, and with excellent career prospects. But the biggest threat to cats in Vietnamese lore is stress.
38. He has a long-standing feud with the journalist and broadcaster Vincent Browne, dating back as far as 1982, when Browne appeared on The Late Late Show and said that Kenny “purported” to be a TD. In 2010, Browne had to publically apologise after jokingly asking whether Fine Gael was requesting that he go into a darkroom with a gun and bottle of whiskey. This was in reference to Fine Gael's position in the polls, where they were in second place to Labour, and a previous leadership challenge to Kenny by Richard Bruton.
39. In fact, his spat with Browne is so bad that during the last general election, Kenny outright refused to take part in the TV3 three-way leaders debate on account of Browne acting as the moderator. He refused to take part even when Browne offered to have someone else moderate it.
40. And finally, according to FamousBirthdays.com, he is the fifth most popular politician who is a Taurus, after Vladimir Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, and Kemal Atatürk.