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Lise Hand: Spain is a big country, muinteoir Enda tells TDs

SEAMUS Heaney once recounted a tale from his days as a primary school teacher, when he suspected that a unilateral exchange of information was quietly passing during class tests from one bright little spark to his less academically minded chum.

So, just after a test began, muinteoir Seamus suddenly separated the two lads and waited with some curiosity to discover how the less sharp of the pair subsequently fared on the subject of birds. It soon became sadly clear, as his essay began: "The swallow is a migratory bird . . . he have a roundy head."

Yesterday afternoon in Leaders' Questions, our Taoiseach resembled that unfortunate child, either unable or unwilling to deliver illuminating or precise answers to any of the topics which were up for discussion.

Enda had his own "roundy head" moment while he was attempting to answer Gerry Adams's charge that he and his Government were prepared to cave in on the thorny matter of paying back the €3.1bn Anglo note due at the end of March.

"You kowtowed to your masters in the EU," sniped Gerry, adding: "Will you follow the lead of the Spanish government, stand up for the interests of Irish citizens and refuse to pay this promissory note?"

The Taoiseach was not in the mood for a protracted discussion on this protracted negotiation and retreated into a meandering line of waffle, with the subdued air of a schoolboy who hadn't done his homework and was hoping to spoof his way out of trouble.

"Spain is a very, eh, is a very, is a very big country," he solemnly informed the denizens of the Dail chamber, who digested this nugget in silence.

"It has a huge economy and is in a very different position to Ireland," he added for good measure.

Well yes, Spain is positioned further south than Ireland and so the sun shines a lot there. Moreover, the rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain.

Enda went on to elaborate on his "big country, far away" theory.

"Greece is a very different situation than Ireland. Portugal is a different situation than Ireland. And Ireland is a very different situation than Spain," he continued.

Across the chamber, poor Gerry looked in need of a quick lie-down.

But none of the opposition was getting any joy from Elusive Enda yesterday. Perhaps he was just a bit fatigued from clocking up more air miles than Buzz Aldrin, but he went to great lengths to keep his opinions to himself.

At the outset of Leaders' Questions, Micheal Martin brought up the fraught matter of RTE's latest stations of the cross -- the ongoing controversy over Sean Gallagher and the bogus tweet.

Fianna Fail appears to be terribly exercised over the whole sorry debacle and Micheal was worried that the investigation into the whys and wherefores of the infamous tweet would not uncover any conspiratorial grassy knolls lurking in the lush undergrowth of Montrose.

"There is an element of unfinished business and things have been left hanging," fretted Micheal.

"Are you, the Taoiseach, satisfied that the steps that have been taken to date are sufficient to restore public confidence in the broadcaster, which is the central issue?" he asked Enda.

But the Taoiseach had no intention of steaming into the national broadcaster and retreated to the fence, whereupon he sat and sonorously read out large sections of the finding by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

"You have the clock well talked down by now," grumbled Fianna Fail's Niall Collins (and he wasn't wrong).

Finally, Enda trotted out a pious line to placate Micheal.

"I share your view that it is of critical importance for the good of the country and of civil life in the country that the national broadcaster adhere to the strict requirements of the act that set it up, which is that our democratic institutions can be assured of fairness, objectivity and impartiality in respect of dealings with the national broadcaster." And then he sat down.

Not even Joe Higgins could provoke a non-woolly response from the Taoiseach on the subject of taxing the super-rich, invoking the name of Warren Buffet -- "one of the leading capitalists for decades" -- as he berated Enda. "Why will the Taoiseach not bring in a wealth tax?" demanded Joe.

But the Taoiseach wouldn't take the bait.

"Deputy Higgins should look beyond the shores of the country sometimes because the Warren Buffets of the world and economists, business and politics internationally now look at this country as being in a very different position than it was 12 months ago," he explained.

Oh yes, we're in a very different position. We're smaller than Spain, you know.

Irish Independent