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Monday 19 February 2018

Taoiseach's timing just right as he takes place in history

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

ENDA Kenny must be pinching himself. His ascent to power has, within weeks, afforded him an honourable place in history.

With his feet barely under the table in Government Buildings, the Taoiseach hosted the queen and British Prime Minister David Cameron in his office within the space of a few hours yesterday.

While Mr Cameron is by no means the first UK prime minister to come to Dublin, this was Her Majesty and her prime minister, speaking with the leader of the Irish Republic under a portrait of Michael Collins, separated by a few hours after a wait of almost one hundred years.

Mr Cameron arrived in Government Buildings slightly late yesterday, arriving just after six o'clock, with the union flag still fluttering beside the tricolour on Merrion Street. His presence underlined the importance of the queen's historic trip here, since the prime minister doesn't usually accompany the monarch on state visits.

The Taoiseach and Mr Cameron go back a bit, and have met each other on numerous occasions, including in 2008 when they were both opposition leaders and had yet to complete the climb to the top of their respective greasy poles.

Then, they pledged to strengthen ties between the Tories and Fine Gael, and identified how close they were on issues like tax policy. Yesterday, they chatted briefly on the steps before going up to the Taoiseach's office for short talks.

They had a tight turnaround, and Mr Cameron's security detail followed behind him with his formal wear for the State dinner later in the evening.

"It is a great honour for us to have the prime minister visit half way through the State visit by Her Majesty and Prince Philip and her party," Mr Kenny said.

"We're going to have a little discussion here for a few minutes, but obviously we want to talk about how coalitions work. We're used to that in this country; it's a relatively new experience for the British Government."

Mr Kenny again thanked the British government for giving Ireland a £7bn (€7.9bn) loan, before passing over to "David to say a few words".

It was all very friendly, in keeping with the tone of the week, and Mr Cameron thanked "Enda for the very warm welcome that he has given to me on this, my first official visit to the Republic of Ireland. It's an absolute delight to be here at the same time as this hugely successful and very significant visit by Her Majesty the Queen," Mr Cameron said.

"I think this visit will set the seal on what is already a very strong relationship between out two countries but a relationship I believe can get even stronger still."

And he was right. The British Prime Minister and the Taoiseach met yesterday, and Northern Ireland was discussed. But as Mr Cameron said, the relationship is now "so much broader, so much stronger and there are so many other things that we can discuss together".

Irish Independent

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