Enda Kenny has been an extraordinary Taoiseach and Fine Gael’s most successful leader ever. After decades of service to our Party and country, we owe him a debt of gratitude.
He brought Fine Gael from the edge of extinction to its current position as the largest party in the State. He brought Ireland from the brink of bankruptcy back on to the road to prosperity.
When elected leader of Fine Gael in 2002, he brought renewal and hope to the party, which was at its lowest ebb. He immediately set about rebuilding. In eight years as Leader of the Opposition, his tireless work saw Fine Gael grow and gain seats in one election after another.
Enda gave hope to a battered and bruised Ireland in 2011. His dedication and determination gave Fine Gael a landslide in that year’s general election. But more importantly, he brought this country back from the brink of economic collapse, and offered political stability when countries across Europe were staring into the abyss.
I’ll never forget the day that Irish democracy was handed back from the Troika, restoring our standing in the world and returning our dignity. It’s incredible to think that we have climbed from those depths and are once again the fastest-growing economy in Europe.
On a personal level, I owe him so much. He appointed me to the Party’s Front Bench following my first election as a TD. I was honoured to accept a Ministerial position from him after the 2011 election. I have learned a lot from Enda, in particular how to lead a team of people with many talents and diverse views.
Against all the odds and in spite of predictions to the contrary, Enda fashioned a Government in 2016. Once again Enda didn’t flinch, and he brought stability to the Dáil, to Government, and to Ireland, at a time when there was no obvious solution. It was a privilege to be directly involved in those negotiations alongside the Taoiseach.
Subsequently Enda faced probably the toughest challenge of his career: that of Brexit. He has tackled this head-on with vigour and determination, and has secured the best possible situation for Ireland in advance of detailed Brexit discussions.
Enda’s legacy will be far-reaching. Above all, he is a kind and decent man, always ready with an encouraging word or a solid piece of advice. He is devoted to family, party and country. I hope sincerely that his expertise will continue to be available to us. But I know that the party, and the country, will always remember him and will always be grateful.