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How Enda turned a cold shoulder into warm handshake

It was a day of two halves for the Taoiseach in Dundalk.

Firstly he was over the moon at the opening of eBay's shiny hi-tech European operations centre, but then a couple of hours later, he was sick as a parrot over being greeted by a 'guard of dishonour' in the shape of 150 protesting students outside the Dundalk Institute of Technology.

It had all been going swimmingly yesterday for Enda as he arrived at the college a short while after basking in glowing praise from the eBay bigwigs about the "passion" to be found in this corner of Ireland.

Well it turned out that the phalanx of students felt very passionate about cuts to third level maintenance grants, and the two lines of protesters turned their backs when he arrived.

Standing in line behind crush barriers they held up placards in recognition of those who have dropped out of college or been forced onto the dole or into emigration.

The Taoiseach tried to talk to the students, but they literally gave him the cold shoulder, refusing to turn round or engage with him – with one notable exception.

However it wasn't entirely the silent treatment, as he was also confronted on the way into the building by student Eoin Healy from Drogheda who was wearing a pinstriped suit and Enda Kenny mask.

Nor was it even his first protest of the day – earlier he had been barracked by anti-austerity, pro-life and Sinn Fein protesters when he arrived at the Ballymascanlon Hotel to address a Dundalk Chamber of Commerce lunch.

Earlier there was a mutual love-in at the official opening of the new eBay Inc European operations centre which provides support to PayPal and eBay customers.

Several of the firm's top brass had flown in from the US for the occasion, including David Marcus, the President of PayPal which has 128m active accounts around the world, and also John McCabe, Senior Vice-President of PayPal's Global Operations.

David Marcus was most enthusiastic about this country, describing the relationship between PayPal and Ireland as "an everlasting honeymoon".

The company plans to employ 1,450 people in the Dundalk base by 2015.

There was plenty of plamas from Enda as he complimented the two executives on their perfect pronunciation of his title as Gaeilge.

"Most times when I receive international visitors and I happen to glance at the script, it says 'T-Shock'" he said.

He then turned his attention to John McCabe, whose ancestors hailed from the vicinity of Dundalk.

"It is a circle which has been closed off by your decision to put the site in Dundalk, because that's the essence of what the Irish diaspora is – you could've chosen anywhere, but you chose it, because deep inside you was a love of your homeland," he said.

"Aww," sighed the Americans. Enda knows his audience.

So he exited the building a happy chap – that is, until the students decided to teach him a lesson.

Irish Independent