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 Thursday.
When asked if his Waterford TD John Deasy would be considered for a plum appointment were Fine Gael to win the next general election, Deputy Kenny offered a coy reply.
“I was asked this question in Wexford today and I’m asked this question in every constituency I go to,” he exclusively told this newspaper.
“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.”
Mr 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.”
Were the public to place their trust in his party, Deputy Kenny said that party 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 are 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.
Referring to the European election campaign, Enda Kenny believed that his party are well positioned to win a second seat in Ireland South, the re-titled Munster constituency.
“We believe that it’s important that the people of Munster elect both Colm Burke and Sean Kelly,” he continued.
Is taking two seats from the available three a realistic prospect? “Yes. It’s an expectation that we have to believe that we can fight and compete to win for.
“And given the reaction against Fianna Fáil on the doorsteps, there’s all the more reason to put forward the credentials of our people, both in terms of their own personal qualities and in terms of the politics of what’s going to happen in the future.”
While re-asserting his support for WIT’s university submission, Mr Kenny said that the projected 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, concluded: “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.”