It was Hemingway who said that retirement is the ugliest word in the English language.
It represents one of the biggest changes in someone’s life. It is that virtual cliff off which we plummet at a time when we feel that so much more can be given.
Even more so when it happens at a time that isn’t of one’s own choosing. As is the wont of politicians and football managers.
A lot has been written about the luck which Enda Kenny has enjoyed throughout his political career.
And that he has, but not only in political terms.
Throughout his life, Enda has always been one to keep an eye on the bigger picture. He was never consumed in politics to the extent that he blocked out all else. And it is this energy that has brought him to retirement in the finest of physical states.
On any given day, Enda Kenny was only a thought or two away from a cycle trip, a hike up Nephin, or taking his seat at a football match. He is a man who takes wonder in the ordinary, who does not need to be at the complex centre of power to feel the confidence he needs to live a full existence.
And it is this which will stand to him from next month, when he walks away as Taoiseach, and begins the countdown to the next election, when he will formally end his career as a TD for Mayo.
It will be interesting to see what next he turns his hand to. They say that a person can stand almost anything except a succession of ordinary days. Enda Kenny has known more days that were extraordinary than ordinary. Going all the way from Mayo to the White House, to hobnobbing with queens and prime ministers and presidents. Cocooned in the corridors of power, it is very easy to become addicted to it, to be reluctant to let it go, for fear that loosening your grip on it is somehow letting go a large part of the person you are.
He is fortunate to leave politics with his health in fine fettle, with his nerves intact, with his great sense of self-confidence that has emboldened him in the difficult last few months.
Enda always had one big game left in him. His speech against the Vatican, his White House speech, his easy manner with leaders, and I am certain that he will use this ability to reinvent himself and his image once again. From the cover of Time magazine as the man who resurrected Ireland, his CV has enough positives on it to ensure that he can still put himself forward for big international gigs.
While there is no doubting the sentimentality of the approach to his final walk through a doorway he has entered for more than 40 years, the contacts and the impression he has made overseas will enable Enda Kenny to see his departure from Leinster House, as the beginning of a new chapter.
I remember former MEP Mark Killilea telling me many years ago that while he enjoyed the largesse and the pomp and power of the EU institutions in Brussels, there was no feeling to better that which entered his heart when he turned in the driveway of his home in Belclare on a Thursday evening.
I feel Enda has known this all along, and is well prepared for the next chapter in his life, one that could be the most rewarding and satisfying yet, one without the checks and balances of modern premiership.
There will be another day for examining your political legacy, but for now, a sense of gratitude for one of our own, “a local lad done well.”
Enda, go raibh míle maith agat as na blianta atá caite agat mar Sheirbhíseach Poiblí, agus tú ag déanamh do sheacht ndícheall Maigh Eo a bhrú chun cinn, agus tá súil againn agus tú imithe ar scor anois, go bhfeicfidh tú Sam Maguire ag tarraingt ar an ‘Mall’ tráthnóna Luan éigin amach anseo. Go raibh míle maith agat as gach rud agus guímid gach rath ar do bhean chéile Fionnuala agus ar do chlann ar fad agus buíochas leo as tú a roinnt linn ar feadh na mblianta seo ar fad.”
Enda, thank you very much for your years of public service, for pushing the cause of Mayo whenever you could, and we hope that in retirement, you will yet see Sam Maguire come into the Mall some Monday night in the near future. Thanks for everything and good wishes to your wife Fionnuala and your family for sharing you with us all those years.