There’s a time at the end of a concert when the artist, buoyed by cries of ‘more, more,’ comes out to sing just one, then two songs.
Usually, they are old favourites, noticeable by their absence from the earlier repertoire. Often, they are a reworking of one performed before, but which seems like a good choice to send the crowd into the night. By the time they get to the end of the third song, the coats are being put on, people are feeling for the keys in the pocket.
They realise the time when enough is enough. When it’s time to exit the stage while the glow of love from the audience is at its zenith. When all you can achieve now is overstay the welcome, and knock the good out of the moment.
It’s a fine art knowing when to go. It’s also a fine art knowing what you’re good at in life. I think the best realisation that any of us can make is realising what you’re best at, focusing on that, and limiting the things that you know you’re just not up to scratch on. Working unscripted and unprepared is a weapon which politicians cannot have in their armoury.
There is no doubt now that our Taoiseach is on borrowed time. When others say that he will leave at a time of his own choosing, you can translate that as meaning he will leave when they tell him to leave, but that he will be given the chance to announce this himself. And so it must be. Nobody wants a leader to be humiliated or hounded out of office. Everyone deserves their dignity.
However, the sadness of all political life is that often you don’t get the choice to write your own legacy. Events dear boy, events come to haunt you, demanding the utmost dexterity, twisting you this way and that, until eventually you break, only to be replaced by the latest shiny more bendable toy
Those who replace him will realise it one day too. And they know not the day when that might happen.
Nobody is every fully content with the way they are perceived. Everyone wants to waltz off into the sunset, give a little hop and skip, and say that’s all folks.
The writing has been on the wall for Enda ever since we heard that he was the focus of a less-than-inspiring two-programme tribute last autumn. Such programmes are usually maintained for the deep winter of political careers. Having scrambled back into power after months of negotiations, he may have genuinely felt that he wanted to lead Ireland’s call in the Brexit negotiations, especially with European leaders falling about him. After all, he is one of the most familiar faces on the international scene.
He had survived the cringe-making 'whingers' moment of the election, but this week his recollection of the Zappone meeting was reminiscent of the Bertie Ahern era. Meetings that didn’t happen, detailed memories of events that were just made up on the fly. How did he ever think that in this world where every word, every nuance is picked up on, that he would get away with bluster and waffle? Placing your hand on your heart and saying mea culpa will only buy you so much time front of stage.
There was always a bit of leeway with the famous yarns of “I met a fella on the street and he said” variety. They were folksy and whimsical and were tolerated in times when what was at stake was not as critical as they were this week.
But at a time when the country was being presentd with stark evidence of alleged collusion between the various arms of the state in order to ruin at least one man, it was obvious that his Government had backed the wrong horse on this all along.
The revelations of the past week are the stuff of nightmares, an Orwellian possibility that could see any of us undone by nefarious forces not reluctant to concoct the more damning of allegations. What was needed was firm conviction, a commitment to root out the truth. Instead what we got was wordplay and tomfoolery. And dithering.
There will be other days to pay tribute to achievements of a man who has carved out a long and ultimately illustrious political career. But for now, it is just a matter of when to sing the last song, to put the guitar down and to say "goodnight folks, God bless and safe home."