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Lise Hand: Ghosts of taoisigh past hover over Enda

Appropriate, really, that at the same time the Olympic torch was doing a lap of honour around the capital our very own team leader was putting in a champion performance in the Dail.

He ducked and dodged and stonewalled. He sprinted for cover like Mayo's own Usain Bolt (but without the power or grace). It was akin to Superman in reverse -- Enda went into a phone-box, changed his clothes and emerged as Bertie, festooned with the former Taoiseach's shiny gold medals in Spoofery and Waffle.

Yesterday morning's Leaders Questions should've been a pleasant lap of honour for Enda, it being his first day back in the office after a convincing win for the Yes camp in the fiscal-treaty referendum.

But instead of being crowned with a triumphant laurel wreath for this heroic feat, the Taoiseach was sporting feet of clay. In a post-victory flush of hubris last Friday, Enda had declared that a Yes paved their way nicely for our grateful EU overlords to bestow a write-down on the State's massive bank debt.

Micheal Martin -- in an indication that Fianna Fail's temporary truce with the Government is most definitely over -- gave him both barrels.

His question to the Taoiseach was quite straightforward. He wanted to know about Enda's post-referendum phone chat with Angela Merkel.

"Will you indicate exactly what you requested of the chancellor during that particular conversation and her response to you on the bank-debt issue?" he asked.

But Enda's reply was not straightforward at all. "This is a tortuous and complex process and there are no simple, quick-fix solutions," he explained in the middle of a rambling reply.

Micheal had no intention of letting a wriggling Taoiseach off the hook. He wanted details. What did he say to the chancellor? What did she say to him in regard to Irish bank debt?" he demanded again.

But Enda floundered and flapped and fudged. It wasn't that simple, he protested. (Which begs the question -- why did he intimate on Friday that it was that simple?).

"This is a case of 17 prime ministers, 17 parliaments and one bank," he said. Then he tried to launch a counter-attack. "I will tell Deputy Martin what the chancellor said.

"I did not give her an opportunity to say that Deputy Martin's government . . ." he began, before a chorus of scoffing broke out from the opposition.

"She actually hung up on you," jeered Fianna Fail's Timmy Dooley.

Enda lumbered on. "If you come into this House with the understanding that a matter as complex as this will be sorted out with words over a telephone, you are certainly very far removed from the reality of what we face," he told Micheal.

But Micheal came right back at him.

"Your people leaked left, right and centre that you had been on to Chancellor Merkel straight way. You raised the view that we are all to expect something," he reminded Enda.

The Taoiseach then went on a trip around France, Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Malta, without stopping even briefly in Berlin.

The process of hammering out a deal on bank debt, he repeated thrice, was "tortuous and complex".

Gerry Adams rose.

"Can I put the same question to the Taoiseach?" he asked.

He too wanted to know if Angela had agreed to ease the Irish burden of bank debt.

"A straight 'Yes' or 'No' would do," suggested Gerry helpfully.

But he had no joy either, as Enda waffled for Ireland, without ever delivering a concise reply on the matter (the not inconsiderable matter) of what Angela Merkel -- the Chancellor of our Exchequer -- said to him.

It was a dispiriting and disappointing display, and deja-vu rose as the inarticulate ghosts of Bertie and Biffo hovered over the government front bench.

Inevitably, he was far chattier less than an hour later when the doughtiest and most respected Irish athlete Ronnie Delany brought the Olympic torch to the steps of Government Buildings.

The sun was shining and the relaxed mood of the crowd gathered inside the gates was lifted ever higher when the 77-year old Olympic gold medallist ran into the courtyard with the torch aloft.

UP on the steps, the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste clapped like delighted kids and eagerly posed for photos with the sporting legend -- though there was a perilous moment when the blazing gold torch dipped close to Eamon Gilmore's hair.

After the photographs, Enda happily talked to the media about the symbolic torch coming to Dublin.

"It epitomises in so many ways what the Olympics stand for -- higher, faster and stronger," he enthused. He hoped it would inspire young people "to appreciate the adventure of living and the adventure of life".

Which is all fine and dandy, but will it inspire the Taoiseach to raise his game and go the hard yards against Angela? For as it stands, he really isn't at the races.

Irish Independent