Enda tells the House he's open to the world
Sketch: The importance of being Erne blessed – you don’t have to tell Enda about it.
He’s very aware that the G8 summit, due to take place across the Border in Co Fermanagh, presents a tantalising opportunity for the next door neighbours to snaffle some priceless international publicity after the talking is done.
Luckily the Taoiseach has been invited to attend. It’ll be a nice way to round off his stint as president of Europe.
Enda mentioned in the House yesterday that David Cameron said to him last year he was thinking of holding the G8 summit in the Lough Erne resort in Co Fermanagh. The Taoiseach was most “supportive” of the proposal.
We bet he was.
Of course, there will be huge issues of global importance up for discussion. Gerry Adams mentioned them in the context of world hunger and international conflict, and hoped the Taoiseach would get a chance to put Ireland’s view forward.
Oh, and by the way, “has the Taoiseach got any commitment from the Obama administration as to whether the president will make a visit ‘home’ when he’s only a few miles up the road?”
Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Derek Keating was also wondering about the Lough Erne dividend as he dreamily recalled the “wonderful atmosphere” during President Obama’s visit a couple of years ago, not to mention the happy memories of Queen Elizabeth’s historic trip.
He would love to see Obama back here, and “given that the leaders of nations in Europe and other parts of the world will be on the island of Ireland, I ask the Taoiseach to consider inviting the leaders from Japan, Germany and France, as well as Prime Minister Cameron”, suggested Derek, instantly insulting Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Canada’s Stephen Harper and whoever might be Italian premier come June.
They’ll all have a ball if they come down here. We have “the capacity to entertain these people, to showcase our country and to deliver on the commitments it makes with regard to industry, the environment, education and the need to fix the economy we inherited from the previous administration” , said Derek, getting totally carried away.
That’s an awful lot to expect from a trip to Bunratty and a photocall in St James’s Gate.
Fianna Fáil’s Sean O’Fhearghail wanted to know if the Taoiseach envisaged having formal bilateral talks with the other leaders during the summit. And if so “does he think he will have an opportunity to extend formal invitations for them to visit the Republic?”
Enda outlined the issues of global importance which may concern the G8 leaders in the course of his replies, ranging from Burma to President Obama’s address to the nation last night, the situation in the Middle East, international trading agreements, Bill Gates and mosquito nets.
However, he got most animated when considering the possibility of a world beating “Gathering” to end all gatherings.
He knows what he must do.
However, Enda isn’t going to put his foot in it and scare off potential visitors.
“I understand there are protocols with regard to foreign leaders at that scale travelling to different countries,” he told the House.
However, it would be a great opportunity for Obama to “restart” his visit to Ireland, which had to be cut short because of flight safety concerns due to the volcanic ash cloud.
But it isn’t just the Yanks he’s going after.
“I have invitations to extend to other leaders, inviting them to consider dropping in here also,” said Enda.
Although he pointed out that some of the world leaders – such as Mrs Merkel and Mr Cameron – have been here before.
Even so, they’d be more than welcome to drop in again and have a cup of tea in their hand.
As it happens, he added, “when I had the opportunity to call President Obama on his re-election” (as you do) “I did say to him that he and his first wife – eh – lady, Michelle, and their children would be very welcome to come back here to Ireland at any time” .Then we fell to thinking. What about Shinzo Abe? Enda must have read our mind.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a Japanese prime minister here in Ireland on a formal visit,” he ventured. “But I appreciate that certain protocols must be observed when international leaders travel from one country to another. . .”
You could see he has Mr Shinzo Abe in his sights for the full Irish, with added Riverdance, treatment. He’d be most welcome.
Also, said Enda, he reminded Barack during their chinwag that his vice-president is in a position to pay us a visit. Joe Biden has relatives in the west of Ireland, and now that the president has been on an official visit here his VP is cleared to visit.
“I did say to him [President Obama] that he [Joe] should throw the sticks in the back of the plane and we might swing at a ball somewhere if we got the opportunity.”
It came as a relief to hear Enda stress more than once that he would only be handing out his invites “if the occasion is appropriate” .
He won’t be going around the Lough Erne resort pestering them. He’ll do his best for us.
Even the Opposition seemed to be behind him. It looked like it was going to be one of those rare occasions of unanimity in the Dáil.
Then Richard Boyd Barrett got to his feet.
“The G8 is the embodiment of the gross economic and political inequalities that exist in the world today...” And he suggested that, instead of taking the G8 leaders out to play golf, he should take them for a walk in a State forest.
But he’d have to decide not to sell them first, otherwise Enda might have to ask for permission from the Chinese president.