Miriam Lord’s week: Take a bow Enda – for a job well done

No translation needed as prospect of a return visit to Ireland raises heads

Taoiseach Enda Kenny shakes hands with Japanese prime minister Shinzõ Abe in Tokyo last Monday. Photograph: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AP.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny shakes hands with Japanese prime minister Shinzõ Abe in Tokyo last Monday. Photograph: Yoshikazu Tsuno/AP.

Sat, Dec 7, 2013, 01:00

Sorry to disappoint, but we have nothing but praise for Enda Kenny this week.

On his first evening in Japan last Sunday, the Taoiseach’s bowing technique resembled a tentative stoop.

By Thursday morning, when he left the country, Enda was sweeping from the waist like a Regency dandy and still delighting his hosts through the language of plumes.

Dead on his feet, but not showing it.

In the previous three days, we watched with increasing awe as he undertook a gruelling round of engagements in Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka. From early morning to night, there was no let-up in his programme of meetings, speeches, tours, courtesy calls and receptions.

And throughout, he remained unfailingly enthusiastic and good-humoured, engagingly relentless in his mission to sell Ireland as a business gateway to Europe – a sort of Emerald Arch.

His schedule would have defeated men half his age.

We followed him around in a minibus and the pace nearly killed us.

There is a formality around business meetings and social events in Japan which is quite different to the way we do things in Ireland. It requires a lot of concentration to behave in accordance with local convention.

For example, on Wednesday afternoon, the Taoiseach had a meeting with the governor of Osaka Prefecture and a group of the city’s political and business luminaries.

Bows and business cards were exchanged as he made his way along the receiving line. There was a respectful hush in the conference room.

It was all deeply serious.

Finally, Enda got to the end of the greeters and turned to join the Irish delegation at the table. As he walked, he spotted the Irish contingent among the media at the back of the room. A smile spread across his face and he barrelled over for a bit of banter, only to be swiftly diverted to his chair by an official.

We felt a bit sorry for him.

There then followed, through interpreters, a very lengthy exchange of views.

“I am saying this to you, as Taoiseach – the prime minister of my country, that we are really serious about developing these links with your business in this Osaka/Kansai region” he told the group. “We have something to offer you and you have some to offer us.”

And on it went, meeting after meeting. Doing the right thing, saying the right thing.

During numbing tours of Toyota and Panasonic, he continued to smile and listen intently. In Osaka Castle, at the end of a very long day, he listened in fascination for an hour as a historian told him about ancient Japanese history.

“The groups he met were really honoured to have somebody of his calibre and status visiting them. They were very impressed” said a Tokyo-based official.

Whether this delivers results back home remains to be seen, but it’s 10 out of 10 for effort.

As it neared midnight on Wednesday, Enda collapsed into one of the leather seats in the dark hotel bar and had a glass of beer.

He said his head was melted.

“But it’s my business to get out and there and do the job. You have to do it, and do it well.”

Ambassador John Neary and his staff at the Irish embassy will be happy this weekend with a job well done – by themselves and their distinguished visitor.

So do another bow, Enda.

This time, for yourself . . .

(And let usual hostilities resume. This isn’t normal.)

No translation needed as prospect of a return visit to Ireland raises heads
Enda mentioned in the course of his address to the friendly parliamentarians that there had been “at least 10 visits to Japan from the political sphere in the last 18 months.”

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