An “outrageous line of questioning”, or an “amiable exchange”? An encounter between An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and a protester in Galway recently, has left very differing impressions on those involved.
Galway Advertiser photographer Mike Shaughnessy was covering the Taoiseach’s visit to recent Galway and shot this video of the encounter between the Fine Gael leader and People Before Profit Alliance’s Dette McLoughlin, during a PBPA protest against the controversial water tax:The tone of An Taoiseach’s question, “And where are you from?” has been seen as patronising and condescending, and as a way of avoiding answering questions raised by Ms McLoughlin. Others see it as Dep Kenny’s attempts at lightening the mood and ending the conversation on a friendly note.
Ms McLoughlin, who is also the campaign manager for PBPA Galway City Central candidate Kiran Emrich, has lived and worked in Galway for more that 20 years. She is originally from Manchester, where she was born to Irish parents.
According to Ms McLoughlin, Dep Kenny asked Ms McLoughlin where she came from early in his exchange with the PBPA protesters and returned to this subject again later in the encounter.
“I elaborated as to which suburb of the city I live in,” said Ms McLoughlin. “The Taoiseach then turned to establishing my ‘origins’, asking did I come from the area - as in, born and raised here.”
Ms McLoughlin said that while the “Taoiseach’s behaviour was not bordering on racism”, she was “taken a back by this outrageous line of questioning”.
She was also highly critical of the gardaí, when she was approached by a garda “for my identity details when the Fine Gael entourage and spectators had moved on”.
Fine Gael Galway West TD Brian Walsh sees the exchange differently. He says the Taoiseach “engaged with a group of protesters, taking the opportunity to listen”.
“Political leaders would generally ignore such protests and would be advised against engaging with them,” he said, “but it’s in Enda Kenny’s nature to talk to people where they raise issues and concerns. He spent at least five minutes exchanging views with the group on this occasion.”
Dep Walsh describes the controversial “And where are you from?” question as “an amiable exchange”.
“He engaged with people he met in the same manner several times during the course of the subsequent canvass in the city centre, and was universally well received,” says Dep Walsh. “It would be a mistake if it were to be misconstrued as having been disingenuous or discourteous towards the individual involved.”