Taoiseach kicks to touch on tricky issues
Published 25/01/2013 | 05:00
IN the end, Enda Kenny decided to play it safe. Doubtless conscious of his faux pas last year when he angered voters by admitting to an international audience that we had all partied too hard, the Taoiseach decided not to say anything new.
This was a shame because his audience was transfixed by David Cameron's decision to promise a referendum on Britain's EU membership.
There were questions about Britain of course but Mr Kenny kicked to touch, preferring to talk about Ireland's need for help if we are to return to the markets. Like former SDLP leader John Hume during the 1990s who repeated the same speech, Mr Kenny often appears to have little new to say. This can be dull for reporters but it can also be effective.
There were only two moments when Mr Kenny looked uncomfortable yesterday. The first was when a question brought up Ireland's corporate tax rate and transfer pricing. Mr Kenny's answer was testy as he once again defended the 12.5pc rate. The problem for the Taoiseach is that opponents are aiming at transfer pricing and this is more difficult to defend than our 12.5pc tax rate.
The second moment came when the leaders were asked whether further changes to EU treaties would be necessary. Mr Kenny responded with a firm "no" only to be reminded that Mr Cameron has promised UK voters changes to the EU treaties before he puts the question of EU membership to voters.
Will we be forced to hold yet another referendum in Ireland to save Mr Cameron's skin?
Mr Kenny kicked to touch at the forum and later when questioned by reporters, noting that any poll is four years away – an "eternity" in politics.
But it is looking likely that Mr Kenny or his successor will have to persuade Irish voters to agree to changes in Europe to accommodate Britain. No wonder he looked so uncomfortable.