News Analysis

Saturday 30 August 2014

Deadlock gives nation the opportunity to prove our mettle

Fionnan Sheahan

Published 24/11/2012 | 05:00

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'NOTHING is agreed until everything is agreed."

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Taoiseach Enda Kenny found himself using the celebrated phrase of seasoned negotiators yesterday after talks on an EU budget ended without agreement.

Indeed, the remark frequently featured during the Northern Ireland peace process.

Tony Blair reputedly said the last round of negotiations on an EU budget in 2005 were even tougher than his experience of trying to bring peace in Northern Ireland.

Mr Blair was prime minister when Britain held the EU Presidency and was tasked with piecing together a seven-year deal, which is now running out.

Ireland takes over the EU Presidency in six weeks.

The organisation of talks has changed since last time out as the European Council now has its own president, who takes the lead role in negotiations.

Nonetheless, the EU budget hangover casts an unwanted shadow over Ireland's Presidency, which will last six months.

And tortuous negotiations did not feature in Mr Kenny's list of priorities.

Arriving at the failed summit, the Taoiseach said Ireland's EU Presidency would not have "much authority" if there wasn't an agreed budget for the following seven years.

Needless to say he backtracked on that suggestion when the talks ended.

"You can never know the way these things will work out and we are now faced with dealing with that and we will deal with it.

"And, as I say, we will embrace that work with the Presidency in a very real way and hopefully we can prove that we can run, as all governments in Ireland did in the past, a really effective Presidency."

Arguably, the deadlock presents an opportunity to Ireland to show what it can do.

The last time Ireland held the EU Presidency in 2004, then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern successfully pieced together the European Constitution, left in a shambolic condition by the Italians.

Mr Ahern used the skills he honed during the Northern Ireland peace process (in turn, cut out as Minister for Labour in the strike-ridden late 1980s) to tease out consensus and get everybody on board for the treaty.

Mr Kenny has no such high-level experience to call upon but he'll have to learn fast.

Given his revelation this week of a brief flirtation as a child with becoming a Franciscan monk, his task will be that where there is discord, may he bring harmony.

Irish Independent

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