Tuesday 28 March 2017

Potholes from Berlin to Mayo show that politics never really changes

ENDA Kenny will be meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel today in a magnificent Baroque-style castle called Schloss Meseberg about 60km outside Berlin.

The Taoiseach has been invited by the chancellor for a chat about the future of Europe -- along with Czech prime minister Petr Necas and Latvia's Valdis Dombrovskis.

Merkel likes this style of diplomacy and has already had two other think-ins with European leaders in the hope that some real thinking can be done ahead of the cumbersome summits, which usually do little more than fire-fight and rubber-stamp decisions.

As Kenny approaches the white country house, he may well reflect that the cliche that all politics is local is just as apposite for Brandenburg as it is for Mayo. The German government guesthouse became embroiled in a very Irish dispute when it opened five years ago.

Locals were furious when the German government repaired scores of potholes along a 1.7km approach road to the castle at a cost of €1.2m and then charged locals for the repairs.

Villagers with properties along the route were called on to make contributions, ranging from €2,000 to €15,000, under Germany's peculiar property taxes which inevitably force homeowners to share the cost of repairs -- something that sparked petitions and threats of non-payment. Couldn't happen here, of course.

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