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Enda and Big Phil like cats who got the cream


Taoiseach Enda Kenny pictured with the newly appointed Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny pictured with the newly appointed Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny pictured with the newly appointed Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan

ALL SORTS of bigwig politicians hotfooted it to the shiny new Glanbia plant just outside Waterford - and sure why wouldn't they? It's the land of milk and money. The industry that is putting the 'moo' into 'moolah'.

The gleaming €185m infant milk formula and milk powder factory has been hailed as the biggest investment by an Irish company since the 1920s. And it's all about Big Numbers - it will process 700 million litres of milk annually, transforming it into 100,000 tonnes of dairy powder for export, and create 1,600 direct and indirect jobs.

It's a good news story - and a timely one, given that the cap on EU milk quotas is being lifted next month, allowing a market free-for-all - so it was no surprise to see a gridlock of Government ministers pulling up outside the plant, passing the small but inevitable group of anti-water charges protesters being minded by a large number of gardaí.

The Taoiseach led the charge, accompanied by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, junior Agriculture Minister Tom Hayes, local TDs and EU Commissioner Phil Hogan who popped over from Brussels (he was quick to remind people that the plant is situated just inside the Kilkenny county border).

First of all, there were plenty of photos to be taken. And given that the facility at Belview is a milk formula plant, the nice people of Glanbia had even lined up a few babies and bottles of infant formula for the guests to pose with for the delighted photographers. And with an election around a year away, it was a handy bit of early practice for all of them, bar Big Phil - who never has to kiss another baby again in exchange for a vote.

There wasn't a bother on Enda as he fed nine-month-old Saoirse, but it was hard to figure out who was the more startled - Phil Hogan or 14-month-old Noah, who found himself briefly cradled by the Commissioner before being passed back to his mammy. Simon Coveney, who knows a thing or two about babies, having three young daughters, wisely lurked on the sidelines.

The visitors were then taken on a whistle-stop tour through the 24,000 sq m plant - about twice the size of Croke Park. Hygiene is a very serious matter around the production-line, and so the lads plodded around clad in fetching white paper gowns, booties and caps.

It's a hugely efficient operation - actual human beings with their propensity to have all sorts of germs about them have been removed from a large part of the process.

There were speeches. Lots of them, seven in total. Minister Coveney proclaimed it to be "an extraordinarily proud day for me", while the Taoiseach announced: "This country stands now on the edge of the biggest positive development for Irish agriculture in many years".

They were like the cats who got the cream and (ahem) milked it for all it was worth.

Irish Independent