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Diplomacy is a stock set to soar

There was something of the 1930s surrounding the language used to describe the new German/French-sponsored 'pact for competitiveness'. In fairness, this may not constitute a 'Pact of Steel', but they do appear to be determined to rule the continent by stealth.

Sadly, when it comes to Ireland, this may not be a happy experience. Our politicians may be talking bravely about sticking up for Ireland, but nothing captured the reality of our status more than a recent vignette at an EU ministerial meeting after a Greek delegate dared to differ with some German proposal. The German representative walked haughtily across the room, bent down, berated the Greek for his cheek in even daring to have a view and, having silenced him, stalked back to his chair.

Such now is the reality of 'partnership' in Europe.

Sadly, amid all the electoral 'froth' and clever one-liners by Michael Noonan about how "even the dog barks" these days when Anglo Irish Bank is mentioned, last week's expert mission from the IMF, the EU Commission and the ECB reminded us of another unwanted fact. The bankruptcy of the State means that Ireland is essentially Europe's colony. Worse still, we are the colony of the Franco/Germanic Axis of Stealth. And history tells us that our new 'partners' are more unpleasant masters than the British.

If there is one positive aspect to this mess, it is that we are not alone. Europe is now split between comfortable states such as France and Germany and the afflicted economies of the Mediterranean countries, Belgium and Ireland. And the question is increasingly being asked as to whether half a continent must be turned into vassals to protect the profits of Franco-German banks.

Such a scenario means Mr Gilmore is correct when he says we need someone to fight for us in Europe. But trying to skin a live cat, let alone the German tiger, is at the best of times a perilous affair.

It might seem strange to suggest that the Department of Foreign Affairs is more critical than that of Finance. However, if Germany continues to behave like the fat boy in boarding school who thinks he can do what he wants because Papa owns the tuck shop then Foreign Affairs may become as important in terms of charting a better future as it was during the happier days of our accession to the EU.

It should be noted that when it comes to the re-invigoration of Germany's urge to dominate, that our own damned stupidity has created the appalling scenario where our future is decided by Frau Merkel's need to retain the support of Hans, who spends every Friday night in the local Bierkeller complaining about the feckless Greeks, Irish, Turks and other lesser races.

But all successful diplomacy is predicated on the securing of the future interest of the nation rather than sorrow over past failures. During their long love affair with fascism, our moral German friends decreed that while the British and the French were part of the superior races, the mere Irish were given the same middle ranking as the unfortunate Poles. As Germany returns to old habits it is starting to look as though we need to build a modern league of small nations to curb the imperial ambitions of Frau Merkel and her devious French collaborationists. If this is to be achieved, however, Foreign Affairs will need a politician with guile and a silky political touch, who, behind the velvet glove of humorous quips retains something of the night around his persona.

One wonders who among the Rainbow ranks might fit that particular bill.

Sunday Independent