Enda Kenny resigned as Taoiseach earlier this year. (Picture: Getty Images)
NOT much has been heard of Enda Kenny since his resignation as Taoiseach earlier this year.
Shortly before taking to the stage to address the complex issue of Ireland’s position within Europe post-Brexit at The Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool last night, former Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny spoke to The Irish Post about life since his resignation last May, as well as the border issue.
In light of ongoing Brexit discussions and the issue surrounding the Irish border, the former statesman had a lot to say on how things are going to pan out for both countries in the coming months.
Ahead of his address to the students of one of the north west’s most prestigious universities, Mr Kenny spoke of how the whole thing came about:
“Well, I responded to a request from Irish Studies lecturer Dr. John Kennedy here at the University of Liverpool to come and engage in a question and answer session with the students here. It’s something I’ve done before in Castlebar and I’ve come to really enjoy it.
"Dr. Kennedy has done an awful lot for the Irish community in this country. I think it’s important for people like him to keep doing the work he does because it helps to maintain the good relationship with Britain despite the difficulty of their decision to leave (the EU).”
When questioned on what needs to happen to bring the Northern Irish border issue to a conclusion, Mr Kenny said: “It’s important to remember that this is not a case of Britain negotiating with Ireland, this is Britain negotiating with the EU, of which the Republic of Ireland is a member and will remain a member. While I’m not privy to the details I am able to reflect on the mechanics of how the European council works from my time as Taoiseach.
“While the media might report that the next few weeks are important, the next few days are critical. The President of the EU Council will be in Dublin tomorrow, and the Principal of the EU Commission is meeting Prime Minister May here in the UK on Monday. So, they really need to be clear on this issue by the middle of next week.
The main issues as far as I can see are issues around citizen's rights when Britain leave the EU and the question of the border and relationship between that and the UK.”
The former Taoiseach’s appearance in Liverpool coincides with an announcement earlier in the day from Dail Eireann, of Leo Varadkar’s appointment of Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney as Tanaiste, following Frances Fitzgerald’s resignation earlier in the week. So what does the former Taoiseach make of the current Taoiseach’s Cabinet reshuffle?
“I think he has made good choices. Minister Coveney is a fitting replacement for a great minister in Frances Fitzgerald who has chosen to resign from her post after many years of great service. Minister Coveney has worked tirelessly within the party and for the party, since joining as a young man. As a former party member, it’s encouraging to see someone as competent and hardworking as him be rewarded.”
Kenny has remained out of the spotlight since his resignation as Taoiseach last May. What has life been like for the Mayo man in the aftermath of his decision?
“Well, the quality of my time is different for a start. I’ve been busy since my resignation. I’ve had 42 good years in public life. Almost 20 within the spotlight wherein I came through three general elections and formed a government on two occasions. I was happy to leave on my own conditions. I think its evident that I left the country in a good position, with the interest rate down from 15 percent to almost 0, unemployment down to 6 percent and Ireland’s position re-energized internationally.
"I always said that I wouldn’t be leading the party to a fourth general election. The timing was right.”
With a watershed period on the cards following Britain’s exit from the EU, the former Fine Gael party leader doesn’t foresee any drastic consequences in line for the Irish community in the UK post-Brexit.
“The common travel area rights have been in place since the foundation of the State in 1922. The Irish have had the right to travel and live in Britain for over 90 years. This won't change. We have to remember that our position is stronger than that of many other countries.”
Enda Kenny is to be presented with the prestigious honour of the Order of Inisfallen in Kerry today.
The honour is bestowed on people who have helped to boost the reputation of the area around the world
Previous inductees include actor Michael Fassbender, singer Daniel O’Donnell, politicians Jimmy Deenihan and John O’Donoghue and Isolde Liebherr.