Waterford’s continued representation at the cabinet table under a Fine Gael-led government was neither confirmed nor denied by party leader Enda Kenny during his visit to the city on Thursday last.
When asked if his Waterford TD John Deasy might be considered for a return to the front bench ahead of Fine Gael’s possible return to power, Deputy Kenny offered a coy reply.
“I’m asked this question in every constituency I go to,” he told this newspaper at the Granville Hotel.
“I’d be absolutely foolish and presumptuous to say that I’m going to pre-determine what the people of Ireland are going to do in a vote. That’s a matter for the Taoiseach of the day.”
Deputy Kenny added: “If that’s to be me, and I hope it is, I’ll have to deal with that question. Obviously we have a wealth of talent right across the country in Fine Gael but it would be counting chickens before they’ve even hatched to do something like that…
“The anger out there against the Government is very strong. If the people vote the way they’re talking there’s going to be a very strong vote against Fianna Fáil.
“Correspondingly, Fine Gael have picked up great support, but we’re not in any way complacent about this. Elections are never over until the boxes are closed.”
Describing the pending elections as a “watershed in Irish politics,” Deputy Kenny stated: “If you want change, people can actually do it now. This could well precipitate a general election, which I believe is necessary so that the next government can actually have a clear mandate and get on with sorting out the problems of the country.”
Were the public to place their trust in his party, Deputy Kenny said that Fine Gael members the country over, including Waterford, would have a role to play in getting the country moving positively forward.
“John Deasy, Paudie Coffey and everyone else is in the same boat in that regard,” he said, tellingly including the Portlaw-based Senator who has made a significant impact since winning election to the upper house.
While re-asserting his support for WIT’s university submission, Mr Kenny said that the potential loss of 44 teaching posts in the Waterford primary sector come September was an appalling indictment of Government policy.
“This is an absolutely scandalous decision by the Minister for Education,” he said.
“This Government are actually prioritising an attack on the most vulnerable and the most defenceless.
“I’ve come across umpteen cases around the country where children in desperate need of specialist teaching are having that taken away in September. I have spoken with families who are not going to get the book grant next September, which will lead to serious social division.
“You have this nonsense of taking teachers out of classes when our education system represents the future of our country. If you cannot provide an education system for all your people, then you’ve failed in politics and you have failed the future.”
Deputy Kenny, a former teacher, stated: “If you don’t have teachers at the top of the class, then you condemn the pupils who need educational stimulation to a lifetime of darkness. You don’t allow them to achieve full potential and I feel very strongly about that.”
The Fine Gael leader urged the people of Waterford to avail of their right to vote on June 5th.
“A series of decisions have been made [by the Government] floundering around in the dark. People actually feel that their money has been robbed, their jobs have been taken away from them, their futures have been wasted and that their careers have been destroyed…
“People want to vent their anger – the strongest weapon they have is their vote. And while this is not a general election, I believe it will precipitate a general election if the anger being expressed to me is translated into votes on June 5th.”