Merkel's tough guy turns on the charm
TOUGH guy German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble turned on the charm at Farmleigh House yesterday.
He spoke of the privilege of meeting Brendan Howlin for the first time and pointed to his strong relationship with Michael Noonan.
The 70-year-old straight-talker acknowledged the problems Ireland has experienced and, in his trademark blunt fashion, he backed us to regain our economic sovereignty.
His political path is similar to Mr Noonan's: both led their parties, resigned in ignominious circumstances and failed to reach the top job but are revitalised in the public eye as they play a vital role in their countries' economic future.
Mr Schaeuble has been confined to a wheelchair since October 1990.
A week after German reunification, the then interior minister was shot three times by a mentally ill man, leaving him fighting for his life.
A right-hand man of then Chancellor Helmut Kohl, he continued in office and was tipped to succeed his boss. But Mr Kohl's insistence on running in 1998, when he lost to Gerhard Schroeder, scuppered his best chance.
Mr Schaeuble became chairman of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, but was forced to resign in a scandal over campaign donations.
As chairman, he appointed an up-and-coming East German, Angela Merkel, as his deputy. Her positioning during the scandal saw her emerge as the clean image of the CDU.
Ms Merkel emerged as leader and went on to become chancellor in 2005. She appointed Mr Schaeuble to the interior ministry, and in 2009 to finance.
His office is in a building dating back to the Nazi-era that accommodated Hermann Goering's Luftwaffe aviation ministry during World War Two.
The complications from two decades in a wheelchair have had a debilitating impact on his health, forcing him into hospital on a regular basis.
To stay as healthy as possible, he takes regular two-to-three hour handbike workouts.