Taoiseach at nyse

Enda Kenny's 17th floor fireside chat

The crowd at last week's Irish Consulate reception for Enda Kenny was well settled by the time the taoiseach walked in the door. That is to say it was restless because the event was scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. and by the end of it there was no sign of the star guest.

That was because Kenny was being pulled limb from limb by the New York media and his arrival in New York - or more accurately Teterboro Airport in New Jersey on the government jet - led immediately to a visit to the World Trade Center site, this just a couple of days after the news of Obama bin Laden's demise at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALSs. Still, the consulate crod was for the most part patient.

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Kenny is a popular leader, thus far at any rate, and a good many of the people in the room were tied to Mayo, so they were going to hang on for their hero no matter what.

And he eventually turned up, shaking hands and clearly recognizing old faces and remembering names. And if was stumped, Consul General Noel Kilkenny was on hand to make the introductions.

Kenny's presence was a reminder of the shrinking world and the miracle that is jet travel. He had earlier in the day spoken in the Dáil. His words were reported in the Irish papers and people in the U.S. were already reading them even as he stepped onto U.S. soil.

Standing in contrast to this ability to reach out and travel using technology was Kenny himself, or at least his speaking style.

Naturally, he gave a speech, unscripted but full to the brim with urgency and passion. Enda Kenny comes across as earnest, eager for the fray, and averse to the idea that he is in the political game for any other reason than the good of the people who elected him to the highest government office.

But there's something about his style of delivery, and even his choice of words. Ireland, he said, had never faced anything like the scale of the economic challenge it was facing right now. He compared the present situation to the 1920s when it had been necessary to build a new country from the rubble of the old.

He spoke of the "lump in the throat" being no different now than it ever was when Irish people were being forced to pack their bags and emigrate. Kenny's talk could have been delivered in the 1920s or '30s. His style of speaking, cadence and rhythm, would have easily suited radio in its earliest days.

And that what the crowd in the consulate heard: an address that was the 21st century equivalent of an FDR fireside chat in the third decade of the 20th.

So Enda Kenny as Ireland's FDR? Too early to say, but few would find reason to object if it turned out that this is indeed the case.

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