Friday 13 December 2019

Could Enda Kenny's next job be president of Europe?

Taoiseach playing down speculation over top role

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Daniel McConnel

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is now seen as a front runner to take the top European Council job later this year.

Having previously been linked with the job of European Commission President, Mr Kenny is now being touted as a successor to Herman Van Rompuy as the next council President.

The speculation around Mr Kenny in Europe has intensified as other candidates for the job including Denmark's Helle Thorning-Schmidt and Italy's former Prime Minister Enrico Letta have faded.

But Mr Kenny, speaking after a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin said, he has "more than enough on his plate" at home.

Asked by reporters that his high standing in Europe, particularly with the European People's Party (EPP), means he "ticks a lot of boxes", Mr Kenny said he is concentrating on immediate matters back home.

"I also tick the box that I have to engage this weekend with the new leader of the Labour Party and work out the agenda and strategy that must apply now to continue to grow our economy. So that is my focus and that is my priority," he said.

He added: "This role of the European Council will attract lots of speculation as to whom might be or not be the head of the council. My priority clearly is to continue to lead the Government and create jobs and I have more than enough on my plate with that." The Taoiseach again raised the issue of Ireland's quest for relief on our bank debt, but no substantial progress was made.

Ms Merkel gave some comfort to Ireland saying: "Our task in the coming years is to show people in Ireland that the difficult path they took was worth it."

In his meeting , Mr Kenny also spoke of the "fragility" of Ireland's recovery and the need for greater investment in jobs, particularly young people.

Mr Kenny was warmly received at a German Economic think tank conference where he highlighted the painful voyage undertaken by the Irish people since 2008.

Ms Merkel quipped: "After Mr Kenny's speech, I was worried you'd all go to Ireland and leave your investments here."

She also said that since the crisis she and Mr Kenny have "found a good balance, even in Ireland's most difficult hours".

On domestic matters, Mr Kenny also disagreed with Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore that there has been a "fundamental breach" on a deal between Fine Gael and Labour over the property tax.

Mr Gilmore said Fine Gael led plans to cut central funding to councils is not what was agreed when the property tax legislation was being drafted.

Mr Kenny insisted that no deal exists and that the details of how the property tax would work remain to be worked out.

He said: "The only things that have been agreed here is that 80 pc of the local property tax be retained by the local area and that no council should be worse off than it was last year. The details of that still have to be worked out."

Mr Kenny said: "Clearly many councils have very different understanding about the property tax. We have made it clear for quite some time.

"The principles here are that no council will be worse off starting off and we still have to work out the details there."

Irish Independent

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