Opinion: The end for Enda was the 2016 General Election

The Taoiseach has admitted that he 'didn't enjoy' the election but later claimed to have found his mojo...

They say time flies when you’re having fun. If that’s the case, the year that’s followed this single moment of Enda Kenny’s life must have been a hell of a slog altogether.

Yes, the “whingers” comment delivered last February 21st in front of a crowd of hometown party loyalists set the tone for a slump Enda Kenny has never recovered from.

It was one of the few standout moments in a 2016 General Election campaign that was noteworthy purely for being noteworthily dull. You can get away with a great many things in politics, being seen to insult the constituents is not one of them.

Challenging times

Over the past two weeks, the Taoiseach’s explanation for when he first learned of the false allegations aimed at whistleblower Maurice McCabe were given, taken back, changed and given again. That mind-rush of successive and incompatible answers was also characteristically on show after ‘whingegate’.

He first told us he was pointing the finger at ‘locals’ who ‘wouldn’t know sunshine if they saw it’, then it was Fianna Fáil and then, finally, it was ‘mea culpa’.

It has really been a strange turn of events for Kenny, who had, despite criticism for deeply unpopular measures like the water charge and the relentless crisis in the health service, been something of a ‘Happy Warrior’ - relentlessly energetic for a man of his age, with a real and under-appreciated gift for genuine responses to people’s concerns and problems brought to him.

All changed, changed utterly...

By his own admission, he “didn’t enjoy” the last election, before protesting and telling Pat Kenny that he had re-found his “mojo”. In reality, the old Enda was lost forever. Members of his parliamentary party have complained that the ‘unbeatable’ attitude of their leader has never been the same after the election. His staunchest allies will tell you that something fundamental has changed, even speculating that it’s a question of confidence.

Now that he’s addressed the leadership issue (sort of). The critiques and evaluations from within Fine Gael will fade away and all of his remaining TDs will give him the victory lap of adulation befitting one of their own.

But, if they look a little closer, they’ll see a pale reflection of a captain who led them to their greatest triumph but left a lot out on the field of play at the most crucial moments over a year of upheaval that has tilted politics back towards the ‘old enemy’ in Fianna Fáil. That’s something worth whingeing about.