Sunday 8 December 2019

Kim Bielenberg: Hey Bill, any chance of slipping us a few billion?

BILL GATES has come to visit us and, as always, the best suggestions about how we should greet him have come from Twitter.

Liam Coburn said: “Quick - bake some bread and put some coffee on... He might buy the place.”

The suggestion is not far-fetched. He could probably buy Ireland two times over, and have enough change for half a dozen Caribbean islands.

The Microsoft founder and philanthropist met Eamon Gilmore at a breakfast summit to discuss foreign aid priorities during our EU presidency.

That is all very worthy indeed, but one hopes that Mr Gilmore whispered a quiet word in the ear of the philanthropist over the Danish pastries (which we trust were bought from Lidl in order to avoid the impression that we are in any way well-to-do):

“Hey, Bill. Any chance of slipping us a few bob?”

There is certain irony in our government striding with statesmanlike grandiloquence alongside the second richest man to have a chinwag about helping poor countries when we ourselves are effectively broke.

Surely, it would only be polite of the bespectacled tech tycoon to pass us a few billion under the table as he passes through and has his audience with Bono.

After all, Gates recently mentioned in an interview that he has no personal use for money.

That is the sort of sentiment that can only be expressed by an individual with estimated personal wealth of €48 billion.

Eamon Gilmore was surely right when he suggested at the breakfast summit that the Irish people have a deep respect for Bill’s successes in business and innovation.

But in fairness we have also suffered long and hard, tearing our hair out waiting for Microsoft Internet Explorer to open, and wondering why our old Microsoft Word system does not save information automatically.

The least Bill Gates could do after all our toil at the keyboard is to write an 11-figure cheque while he is in transit.

I do hope that Enda told him when they were hobnobbing at Government Buildings: “We have this bank, IBRC, that we can offer you for a reasonable price with fine headquarters overlooking St Stephen’s Green.

“It’s only a quick drive from Bono’s house, and just for you, Bill, we’ll throw in few Anglo Irish Bank souvenir golf balls.”

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