News Analysis

Thursday 2 October 2014

Lise Hand: Enda's talking turkey – but where's the beef?

Published 18/01/2013 | 05:00

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THE Taoiseach suddenly began to enthusiastically chase an unfortunate goose down the path.

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"Look! Dinner!" he exclaimed cheerfully.

At least Enda could be sure that there'd be no horse in his goose, if it had ended up in a frying-pan.

He may have been touring the home of the Tayto crisp, but he was adhering steadfastly to the official mantra – everything is hunky-dory with Ireland's beef-processing industry.

No doubt Enda had hoped to move the food focus from bad news burgers to celebratory cheese'n'onion when he visited Tayto Park in Ashbourne, Co Meath, for a jobs announcement yesterday morning.

But the massive hoohah over horse meat was showing little sign of abating.

And so he was obliged to defend the Government's handling of the controversy, in particular questions over who knew what, and when, about the test results.

"It's been very properly handled by the Department of Agriculture and Food and by the Minister for Agriculture and Food," he insisted.

This has caused more flapping than would be found among a flock of startled geese, given that almost two billion much-needed scoots flow into the bare national coffers from the beef export industry each year.

Enda probably wouldn't have chosen to be standing in an Irish food enterprise while discussing the shortcomings of another portion of Ireland's export grub.

But poignantly he told the assembled staff that he had been asked some time ago to make the jobs announcement by junior minister and local TD Shane McEntee, who took his own life last month.

"There is one face that is not here today, and that's the late lamented Shane McEntee, who asked me some months ago if it would be possible to come down to Tayto Park and Largo Foods to announce the 78 new jobs," he explained.

Moreover, it was a good news story for the impressive theme park, which began when its founder Ray Coyle began keeping a herd of bison in the fields, which drew curious sightseers. The park attracted 400,000 visitors last year, four years after opening.

On his arrival at the 55-acre park, Enda was taken by Ray Coyle on a brief guided tour to see some of the animals.

Perhaps he was just relieved get a brief respite from burgers, but the Taoiseach was as giddy as a boy on the mitch as he, um, horsed about with the wildlife.

He was a veritable Doctor Doolittle, talking to the animals as he walked around the grounds. "Christmas is over," he kindly informed an uneasy-looking large turkey.

He then announced the new jobs for the plant before being taken on a tour of the factory – 30,000 tonnes of Irish potatoes annually are converted into a variety of crisps – including Tayto and Hunky Dorys.

So, is the Taoiseach a salt'n'vinegar or cheese'n'onion chap? "Cheese and onion," he confided, before heading off with a goodie bag containing a personalised Tayto fleece jacket and snacks to sustain the Cabinet through a long day of trying to fix the burger brouhaha.

They'd better not make a meal of it. Or we're all goosed.

Irish Independent

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