Friday 19 April 2019

Taoiseach, the time for speeches is over

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, left, and French President Francois Holland
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, left, and French President Francois Holland

Lise Hand

The chatty mayor of Lyon, Gérard Collomb, gave Enda a guided tour of his office, which could only be described as sumptuous. The 17th century Hotel de Ville is jaw-droppingly ornate, a baroque confection of silk and oak and gilded columns and a shimmer of chandeliers and parades of portraits of well-fed Comtes of This and That looking as imposing as any male sporting a white, curly powdered wig and head-to-toe red velvet could hope to look.

This has been a working city hall for centuries, and was quite a hive of activity during the French Revolution. One of the splendid rooms contains a special door; when various rebels or suspected insurgents were brought before the city poobahs to judge which side they were on, if they were ruled as being among the trouble-makers, they were whisked straight through the special door and hustled straight to the waiting and over-worked guillotine.

No messing around. Just instant justice dispensed.

Now, while such a fast-track to a nasty demise is obviously to be deplored, there is something to be said for impressing upon people in power that the overused political phrase 'life and death' sometimes is precisely that.

In Paris on Thursday, the Taoiseach and President Hollande spoke in unison about the need for deeds over words when it came to dealing with the huge tide of miserable human flotsam and jetsam flowing from countries turned to rubble and dust into the European Union.

There have been lots of fine words - as fine and elaborate as the interiors of the Élysée Palace, the Hotel de Ville and Queen's College in Cambridge which have all been graced by the Taoiseach in the past two days.

But so far, there has been precious little action. Once again, the member states are showing signs of reverting to their usual pattern of behaviour in the face of a mounting crisis, which is to run about the corridors of Brussels in the crazed manner of decapitated barnyard fowl.

The Taoiseach and his Government are no different than the rest of the befuddled member states, all desperately scrambling to find a solution, chucking about numbers like bingo-balls. The political time-buying manoeuvre of declaring decisions will be made - but just not until various high-powered meetings have taken place - is in full swing.


Yesterday the bingo-balls were being flung in the air by various members of the Irish Government. Frances Fitzgerald said that Ireland could take 1,800 or more. The Taoiseach then agreed with this, while warning, "I think it's important to get a fix as accurately as possible on what the number might be, and deal with it."

So how can this time be different? Certainly the public outrage was stoked by the death of Aylan Kurdi, a bundle of tiny clothes and a lifeless chubby face buried into the sand of the promised land where his family tried to seek sanctuary.

"Who would've thought we would see people walking to Vienna with children?" asked a sombre Enda Kenny.

What's to be done to impress those who work from the gilded palaces and well-appointed ivory towers of European power?

Maybe a guillotine could be installed in the corner of the room in Brussels to glint at those leaders who cavil over taking a few extra of the huddled masses. Or maybe they could just put that picture of little Aylan on a bare wall in the room. His heart-rending end should leave everyone speechless.

The time for speeches is over.

Irish Independent

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