Bit of rock 'n' roll glamour turns mandarin central into mardi gras
THE hall was going about as balubas as a hall-full of polite, earnest, sober, industrious non-Irish members of a centre-right, conservative Christian Democratic party could possibly go.
There was a standing ovation even before he opened his mouth. The room was a forest of glowing mobile-phone cameras held aloft. They laughed at his jokes and cheered every pro-Europe pronouncement. As pizzazz and razzmatazz go at the EPP congress went, this was as rowdy as Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
No doubt about it – Bono was box-office. The U2 frontman was present to add a bit of showbiz sparkle to the running-order of the list of heads of government and EU high-ups speaking at the final session of the congress. And he damn-well near got top billing as support act for the final two performers, Angela Merkel and Enda Kenny.
And while many native observers might execute exasperated eye-rolls at the sight of Bono doing his rock star thing yet again in front of a smorgasbord of political leaders, the hordes of visiting delegates were chuffed to see him walk on stage.
Bono had a pointed message, too, aimed at those among the Brussels bureaucrats who displayed scant regard for Ireland's terrible plight during the economic meltdown.
"I want to give an enormous shout-out, the biggest shout-out I have in my heart, to the Irish people who 'A' were screwed, and ' B' fought back with dignity. Irish people do not bruise easily, but we do not like the feeling of being bullied," he declared, before adding, "But in the end, we're coming through. I'd love to say it was the troika, but frankly it was despite the troika. The way I see it, the Irish people bailed the Irish people out."
Loud applause erupted in the hall, and nobody clapped more enthusiastically than Angela, seated on the stage.
Bono also made a point of giving the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore a shout-out too, for his party's role. "It really has taken a lot of collaboration and compromise to get from there to here, and we have to credit the Labour Party and President (Michael D) Higgins for their part in this recovery. Real leadership has cost them real votes," he said.
He even threw in a bit of rock star profanity, posing the question to delegates whether the EU would follow up on its pledges to help the more stricken eurozone economies. "Action community, or bollox community? Real neighbourliness, or people bound together by red tape?" he asked.
There was a good deal of Bono-speak about the soul and feelings of the EU, but he saved himself from grandiosity with a sly wisecrack. "This is the time when politicians start squirming in their seats, 'oh god, the rock star is going to start talking about his feelings, he's probably going to ask us to hug each other, or something awful' – one big European group hug, started by the Irish, resisted by the British and paid for by the Germans," he joked.
Even Angela had a hearty laugh at that one. But for the rest of the day, the German Chancellor was all business. After the EPP congress wrapped, she headed for Government Buildings for a lengthy meeting with Kenny, followed by a press conference.
Everything had been running late all day, and by the end of the press conference Angela looked anxious to be off. But as they rose to leave, Enda was eager to teach his guest an cupla focal. "Go. Raibh. Maith. Agat. Can you say that? It means thank you," he slowly enunciated to the chancellor.
Angela looked as if she was faced with a persistent child. She leaned into the microphones. "Thank you, danke schoen," she smiled sweetly to the amused reporters. Enda looked crestfallen. Achtung Angela, as Bono might've said.