Title;    Fine Gael, Party at the Crossroads
Author;   Kevin Rafter
Publisher;   New Island

Kevin Rafter is a  journalist  who  has written  biographies  of Neil Blaney  and Martin Mansergh, and  histories of  Sinn Fein and  Clann na  Poblachta.  He has also written a  thesis on  the  Democratic Left.
His latest book is  a  history of  Fine  Gael  which  focuses  mainly on the  period  since Enda Kenny  became party  leader in  2002.
He claims  that , prior to Enda  Kenny’s leadership,  debates  within  Fine  Gael  were about whether  the party should be positioned  nearer to  the  Labour party or to  the Progressive  Democrats but  that  under him the party  has mirrored Fianna  Fail.  Kevin Rafter  says  that  Enda  Kenny understands  that  in modern politics ideology means nothing, and that   the  key success  factors are  perceptions of  competency  and of personality. 
He  argues  that  Enda Kenny  has  worked  exceptionally  hard  to  energise  the  grassroots of  Fine  Gael , build the  competency of the party  organisationally , and  offer a  listening  ear  to public concerns  rather  than lay  down  prescriptions based  on preconceived ideas. He points  to  his  success in recruiting  talented people  from  other  fields like  George Lee,  Mairead  McGuinness and Brody Sweeney.  This success has been accompanied by the necessary toughness in dealing with incumbents who may not have wanted extra competition or  who were interested in doing a lap of honour.
As is well known, all this activity has paid off handsomely. In  the recent  local  elections, Fine  Gael  got more  seats and  votes  than  Fianna Fail for the  first  time in Fine Gael’s history. Enda Kenny has also been able to keep the party united, a far from simple task.
While the book  portrays  Enda  Kenny as a  supreme pragmatist, it  also  draws attention to  courageous  stands he  has taken on  issues like getting rid of  compulsory Irish in the Leaving Certificate,  denying  access to  Shannon airport  to  belligerents in the  Iraq  war,  and  opposing in  2003  the  benchmarking awards to public servants which  have  subsequently  transpired to be  so unaffordable.
Enda Kenny was interviewed for this book.  Readers will find interesting  the   personal   details  that  emerge  of  his  close relationship  with his  wife, with   his  children, and  with  his late  father Henry Kenny TD,  whose  premature  death propelled  him into politics in  1975.  Representing Mayo in Dail Eireann  is a physically  demanding  task  for any TD because of the  size of the constituency and its distance  from the  capital . But it is all the  more taxing  for  someone  who  is a party leader and  who  has  spent  so much  time  travelling the entire  country and building  up a  personal  rapport with party activists in  every  part of  Ireland.  Enda Kenny has been   doing this for seven years now.  He has, as he himself puts it, served an exceptionally long apprenticeship for the  job of Taoiseach.
Kevin Rafter give due credit to others for their contributions to Enda Kenny’s success. Richard Bruton is seen as substantially enhancing the party’s image of economic  competency and  Frank Flannery  gets much  praise   for his work on the organisational and  candidate  selection  side.  There is one probably inadvertent omission. That is of  the vital role of the party’s   exceptionally energetic director of fundraising, Anne Strain.
This is a timely and clearly written book that gives a good insight into the characters that make up what is now the biggest party in the country.  Beyond the issues already mentioned like benchmarking, the book does not, however, offer much analysis of party priorities based on its statements, nor does it speculate about likely choices Fine Gael might make in Government in times when very hard choices indeed will have to be made.  That is the chapter of the book that the party itself will write.

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