Miriam Lord: Merkel set to rain on Enda’s Trump parade

Politicians get down and dirty for Ireland while Denis Naughten’s corset causes a stir

 Angela Merkel and Enda Kenny: “Angela’s Washington visit will be big news. It’s gonna be tremendously huge.” Photograph: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Angela Merkel and Enda Kenny: “Angela’s Washington visit will be big news. It’s gonna be tremendously huge.” Photograph: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

 

Irish eyes will not be smiling in Washington DC come the week of St Patrick’s Day when Angela Merkel and her entourage arrive in town to rain on Enda’s parade. The German chancellor will be meeting Donald Trump in the Oval Office on March 14th, two days before the Taoiseach arrives for his Thursday tete-a-tete with fellow strawberry blonde, Trump.

It’s not fair. Angela’s visit will be big news. It’s gonna be tremendously huge. It’ll knock our much anticipated mingling of the green and the orange into the ha’penny place.

Merkel and Trump have been slugging it out in a transatlantic sparring match since he took over from Barack Obama in January, with public disagreements emerging between the two world leaders on issues such as press freedom, international security and immigration.

The US president has blasted her migration policy, saying it turned a once great Germany into “a sad, sad, shame”.

The chancellor, for her part, sharply criticised his temporary travel ban on people from seven, mainly Muslim, countries. St Patrick’s week will be the first time the two have met face-to-face. The world will be watching. Angela, unfortunately. Not Enda.

No news yet about what gift the Germans will bring to trump our bowl of shamrock. The blue cornflower is said by some to be their national flower. Or Angela might present an arrangement of the simple edelweiss – Bavaria’s flower – for the delectation of the alt-right contingent on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Or maybe some German sausage? If the wurst comes to the wurst. We hear her press spokesman is a big fan of the song When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.

They’ll be raging when his boss upstages Enda. Although as our jetsetting Ministers take off around the globe on shamrock duty and leave the cares of Leinster House behind for a while, they might remember that famous football slogan with a fond smile: “Angela Merkel thinks we’re at work.”

Trump’s grandfather Friedrich was from Germany, but he was banished from the kingdom of Bavaria by royal decree in 1905 as punishment for failing to do mandatory military service and failing to give authorities notice of his departure to the US when he first emigrated in 1885. So he returned to the United States, where his wife Elizabeth gave birth to Donald’s father, Fred.

Back in the president’s ancestral home in southwest Germany, residents aren’t very keen on a visit from their most famous son. They say the billionaire never showed any interest in their little town and ignored a request a number of years back for a donation towards the refurbishment of their church organ.

Merkel won’t have to extend any such invitation on March 14th because Trump is already scheduled to visit Hamburg in July for the G20 Summit. What will Enda do?

TDs and Senators get down and dirty

It may not have been the greatest standard of rugby he has ever witnessed, but former international referee and Ireland cricket captain Alan Lewis overlooked the players’ athletic shortcomings when he took charge of the match between the Dáil & Seanad team and their counterparts in the XV Parlementaire du France.

He was definitely the star of the show at the Old Wesley grounds in Donnybrook, but the wheezing parliamentarians played their hearts out. (Those that still had one, obviously.)

Lewis, who officiated in the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups, oversaw a 15-5 victory for the home team in the first fixture between the sides since 2008. The Irish tries came from powerhouse number eight and Micheál Martin’s justice spokesman, Jim O’Callaghan, Finbarr Hayes, husband of Fine Gael TD Josepha Madigan, and team captain Senator Neale Richmond of Fine Gael.

His post-match speech en français took some of his colleagues by surprise but French ambassador Jean-Pierre Thibault was delighted by his Gallic turn of phrase.

North Dublin TD Alan Farrell bagged the man-of-the-match award for a typically biting performance in the centre, while John Paul Phelan from Kilkenny and Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar togged out together in the second row.

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh’s canvassing commitments up North robbed the team of their usual tighthead prop, although he should be back for the forthcoming battle against the Commons & Lords team in March.

The French visitors fielded a dozen members of parliament in their squad, led by captain Philippe Folliot. Germinal Peiro scored their only try.

Fine Gael Senators Maria Byrne, Gerry Horkan and Catherine Noone made up the sideline committee with the game played to raise funds for the Irish Rugby Union Players Association’s injured player fund.

Meanwhile, Varadkar will be among a number of Ministers hoping to drop in on the engagement celebrations of Fine Gael parliamentary assistant Theresa Newman and political journalist Hugh O’Connell of the Sunday Business Post.

Theresa, who is from Westmeath, works for her sister Kate O’Connell, who is a first-time TD for Dublin Bay South. Hugh popped the question a number of weeks ago and he tells us they plan to marry “some time after St Patrick’s Day, 2018.”

Enda Kenny says he will outline when he intends to step down from the party leadership after St Patrick’s Day. But unlike Hugh and Theresa, he hasn’t named the year.

Brussels braced for Naughten’s corset

Denis Naughten’s corset caused consternation in Brussels this week. The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Natural Resources was late for a number of engagements in the European Council headquarters after his back brace set off security alarms all over the Justus Lipsius building.

Naughten was injured at the beginning of January when he was knocked down by a car while out cycling near his Roscommon home. He suffered two fractured vertebrae and soft tissue injury to his back and was hospitalised for a number of days.

The Independent TD, who left Fine Gael in 2011 over the closure of his local hospital’s emergency department, was out of action for a number of weeks and returned to work wearing an elaborate brace under his shirt. He stayed on his feet during parliamentary questions in the Dáil chamber recently – he had to get a special dispensation to do so – and he has had to stand at the weekly Cabinet meetings.

Given the heightened security tensions following a number of attacks in the Belgian capital, security officials were taking no chances when a strange man marched up to them with what looked like a bulky vest under his clothes.

At every check point he encountered, Naughten was patted down and frisked, taken away for the vest to be minutely examined and questioned every which way about his identity.

As a result, he arrived very late for his ministerial council meeting. On the plus side, his condition means he won’t have to join his ministerial colleagues on the Great St Patrick’s Day Airlift. Instead, Denis will be staying at home on the big day, modelling his corset in the Roscommon parade. (That last bit isn’t true.)

The brace should be coming off in a couple of weeks’ time.