Enda Kenny was born in Islandeady, a village outside Castlebar, in 1951 and is currently Taoiseach of Ireland. The Mayo man went to school in the Castlebar area, first attending St Patrick’s National School in Cornanool before going to secondary school in St Gerard’s College in Castlebar itself.
He had a keen interest in GAA from an early age and played Gaelic football for Islandeady. Kenny continued to third level education in St Patrick’s College of Education in Dublin and University College Galway (now NUIG) and worked briefly as a primary school teacher before turning to politics.
It can be said that Kenny was destined for a career in politics. His father, Henry Kenny, was a Fine Gael TD in the 1950s and it was at his constituency clinics in the 1970s that Enda began to get involved in politics. When Henry passed away in 1975 Enda was chosen by Fine Gael to stand in the by-election that followed. He was elected and, at 24, was the youngest TD in the Dail at the time.
Kenny was confined to the back benches for almost a decade, appointed party spokesperson on youth affairs, sport and western development. When he did become Minister of State at the Departments of Education and Labour in 1986, his tenure was short-lived as Fine Gael lost the 1987 election and remained out of power for several years. He did however begin to gain national recognition during this time, as the party spokesperson on Education, Arts, Heritage and chief whip.
As chief whip, Kenny was involved in forming the Fine Gael-Labour coalition that came to power in 1994 after the collapse of the Fianna Fail-Labour government. Under Taoiseach John Bruton the Mayo man joined the cabinet and became Minister for Tourism and Trade. Kenny was involved in improving the Saint Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin and bringing a stage of the Tour de France to Ireland in 1998.
Fine Gael had been defeated in 1997 and by 2001 John Bruton resigned as leader. Michael Noonan took the position ahead of Kenny (and a number of other party members) who was then ignored when the spokespersons were chosen.
The 2002 general election that followed was the worst electoral performance ever by Fine Gael, with 23 seats lost and Kenny himself barely surviving. Noonan resigned in the aftermath of the election and Kenny was elected, facing an unenviable task of turning the party around.
After some initial criticism for his leadership style, the Mayo native slowly began to get people on his side and, helped by the changing opinion of the general public towards Fianna Fail, Fine Gael grew in stature as a more united party. His first television speech was well received by the media and was a turning point for the party as an opposition to the government.
Fine Gael grew in popularity in the 2007 general election but the Labour and Green parties did not receive enough votes for an allied government between the three parties to come into power as hoped. Despite a leadership challenge in 2010, Kenny remained in control of Fine Gael and led his party to victory in the 2011 election, forming a coalition government with the Labour party.
Kenny was elected as Taoiseach by the members of the Dail on March 9, 2011. He was faced with a financial crisis left by the previous government and has worked to cut government pay and continues to negotiate in Europe on behalf of Ireland as regards the bank bailout.
He has welcomed American president Barack Obama and British Queen Elizabeth II to Ireland and has also openly condemned the Vatican over its role in the child sexual abuse scandals within the Irish church. As the longest serving TD currently in Dail Eireann, he also has the title of Dail incumbent.