Everyone was certain that Enda Kenny’s avoidance of the first televised debate would do him immense damage. Some prophecied the return of Fianna Fáil to government, some foresaw a Fine Gael putsch (artfully covered by the brilliant Juno McEnroe this week) and some Labour supporters saw the rise to the office of Taoiseach of Eamon Gilmore.
In the event, the debate, between Micheál Martin and Gilmore was piss poor. Despite a wealth of unblocked soft bruiseable tissue, the Labour leader didn’t land a glove on the Fianna Fáiler, and it’s impossible to argue that Gilmore won, despite the immediate entreaties of the pinko hordes in one of the worst organised twitter reach-arounds I ever saw. Micheál Martin won the day.
Enda Kenny, meanwhile, had dinner and spoke to the party faithful, allowing the great debate between the unwanted and the unconscionable to go on without him.
Those angry at Kenny seem more annoyed at the insouciance of the Mayo man than at the actual decision. The ‘Kenny’s running scared’ line is nowhere near as powerful as Fianna Fáil – The Recession Party and the Labour party would like. They hoped this would collapse Fine Gael’s support, but outside the asteroid belt of hacks orbiting the parties, it hasn’t really been borne out in polls. People vaguely opine that it was a bad decision or will hurt him at the ballot box. Let’s see.
It seems to me (admittedly an observer from another country and another system) that people have decided already to give Fine Gael the chance to prove they won’t bugger things up worse than Fianna Fáil. The likely very strong vote will give them, with the very likely Labour coalition partners, a mandate to make Enda Kenny Taoiseach. That seat won’t be empty.