Thursday 25 May 2017

Fiach Kelly: German love-in puts Enda firmly in picture

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny with German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday, prior to their meeting in Berlin where Mr Kenny briefed Ms Merkel on Ireland's economic situation
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny with German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday, prior to their meeting in Berlin where Mr Kenny briefed Ms Merkel on Ireland's economic situation

Fiach Kelly

PEOPLE almost fainted in Dublin Airport yesterday morning. Through bleary eyes they thought they saw a mirage shimmering in the shiny glass and metal of the new Terminal Two.

Was it -- it couldn't be -- a senior politician queuing with the rest of the average punters going through security checks, and waiting to board -- gasp -- a commercial cattle-class flight?

But 'twas Inda hightailing it to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a fancy photo shoot -- eh, we mean an important tete-a-tete -- in the midst of a general election campaign and hours before a crucial leaders' debate.

And there he was getting frisked like the rest of us, and lining up to board, like the rest of us. It was a bit different when Enda landed in Berlin though -- he was whisked to meet Angie in a shiny Merc supplied by the German government, and it'll be a different kettle of fish when he has the government jet under his backside.

Angie had invited Enda over for a chat and Enda was only too happy to oblige.

Fine Gael handlers said it was arranged on the recommendation of European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, who Enda also had his picture taken with -- sorry, we mean held an important meeting with -- in recent weeks.

Micheal Martin's whinge about the Angie-Enda love in, that it was a "photo-opportunity to make himself look prime ministerial", was entirely laughable from a Fianna Fail leader.

Didn't Tony Blair open the Houses of Parliament in Westminster for the Bert during the last general election campaign?

And didn't Bert recruit good aul' Tony and Bill Clinton to appear in the FF party political broadcast in 2007?

Enda's FG and Angie's party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), are both members of the centre-right European People's Party, the largest group in the European Parliament.

The meeting was held in Angie's modest party headquarters in central Berlin, and was relatively low key. It was a meeting between two party leaders -- one of whom happens to be the most powerful politician in Europe.

And, judging by what Enda said after their 40-minute meeting, they talked about stuff they knew about already.

"She was very well briefed on Ireland's problems," he said.

"I made it perfectly clear to the chancellor that, from our point of view, the corporation tax rate and the consolidated tax base are of absolutely fundamental importance to Ireland and I could not concede any movement on those. I made it perfectly clear to her that the cost of the bank situation is exceptionally difficult from an Irish sense and she understands that."

They also spoke about the EU-IMF deal and burden sharing among senior bondholders.

These were not negotiations, Enda insisted, but were more like a briefing on where everybody stands.

Suspicion

Since there was nothing greatly new discussed, suspicion remained that the whole thing was done with an eye on the election.

Job done, Enda and his crew were supposed to hop on a 1.30pm Ryanair flight to get back to Dublin in time for the debate, but it was just after one when they left the CDU building. They missed their flight, but had contingency plans in place, and hopped on a charter flight that got them back into Dublin for 3.30pm -- and then on to debate preparation.

Flying cattle class to Berlin on short notice? About €400. Chartering another flight back to take part in last night's debate? Eh, a good bit more, we'd imagine.

A chinwag and photo in Berlin with the most powerful politician in Europe? Priceless.

Everything's coming up Enda.

Irish Independent

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