Miriam Lord: No Enda the road in sight for Kenny
In the thick of things on Brexit, air-miles Enda tells Dáil all the latest from EU circuit
Intrepid Enda is like a coiled spring, waiting for the British prime minister to pull the trigger and activate him.
The Taoiseach is off again to Brussels. He’s taking part in another highly important meeting because that’s the way he rolls now. Air-miles Enda, bestriding the continent like Dara Murphy, his junior minister for Europe.
Dara was on the radio yesterday morning debating Ireland’s readiness for Brexit with Stephen Donnelly. Stephen recently converted to Fianna Fáil but he sounded normal enough. The Minister told listeners he was speaking to them from an airport in the UK where he was about to board a flight to Norway. Beat that, Donnelly.
Enda is like a coiled spring, waiting for the British prime minister to pull the trigger and activate him. He can’t wait to leap into action, if given the chance, before Leo and Simon sling him out of office. He makes a funny noise when he walks now because he has pulled all his stops out.
When Theresa May hits the trigger, there will be no panic. Enda and Dara and a large supporting cast have covered all angles. The Taoiseach assured a doubting Dáil on Tuesday there was no need to worry.
“We are ready,” he informed the Opposition. “We have all our options covered here.” (That’s what they thought at the Oscars the other night and look what happened there).
Familiar figureThe Taoiseach is a familiar figure around EU capitals these days. He’s haunting his fellow leaders, and loves telling people this. It must be getting close to the stage where he is indispensable on the Brexit front. At least that’s what Enda is convincing himself.
“Since the UK referendum last June I have had a series of bilateral meetings with my counterparts in EU member states and with the heads of the EU institutions. I have also attended all meetings of the European Council, formal and informal,” he announced during Questions to the Taoiseach, extending a mighty welcome to himself.
“At the recent informal summit in Malta, as at all meetings of the European Council, I engaged with my European counterparts...during the course of the event and in the margins of the meetings.”
Formal and informal. Bilateral and multilateral. In the thick of things, and on the margins. Blanket engagement. What would we do without Enda in Europe?
Oh, and he can be firm with it too. People in Ireland fear the return of customs controls between the Republic and Northern Ireland. But there is no need to fret with Brexit specialist Kenny on the case.
“We are not going to have that kind of border, and that is my starting point. I will not stand or sign for anything to do with a return to that kind of border of the past,” he emphatically declared.
He doesn’t care how long this might take. Sure it could take months and months, but he’ll stick with it. Selflessly, like.
Opposition spokespeople couldn’t disagree with him nor fault his enthusiasm.
“We need to maintain a very robust stance,” agreed Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit. There must be “absolute resistance” at any attempt to impose a hard border.
Absolute resistanceHe calling for absolute resistance and all sides of the House agreeing with him – that has to be a first.
Enda talks a good game when it come to Brexit. He was in his element answering questions about it. But the thing is, he stressed, Europe can’t respond to Britain until May triggers article 50 in a couple of weeks. This, he explained, is a letter from the British government stating its intent to withdraw from the EU and setting out its new position.
This is the “key” and that’s why the Taoiseach – in his mind at least – has to be all talk and not much else at the moment.
But time is running out. “We need to go from generalities to specifics,” urged the Fianna Fáil leader. Micheál Martin is concerned about the nitty-gritty.
“There is a sense of a lack of what our agenda is, and what our statement of objectives are.” It doesn’t help either to have “a complete absence of a coherent voice from Northern Ireland”.
The Taoiseach fell short of prefacing his reply with “I’m glad you asked me that question”, but he was thrilled to regale the House with tales of his most recent trips and meetings.
Only last week he was telling the president of the European Commission all about Ireland’s critical requirements in a post-Brexit landscape, and then he moved on to Belgium and told its PM the very same.
Italian officialsHe had a meeting with Italian officials on Monday. He will be meeting Donald Tusk later this week, and he’s all but moved in with his new VBF Michel Barnier, the EU’s main man in the Brexit negotiations.
Oh, and did y’all happen to hear what Lord Hain was saying yesterday in the House of Lords about how a return to Ireland’s border of the past would have serious consequences North and South? No? Enda did, and he filled everyone in.
But there isn’t much you can teach Labour’s Joan Burton about talking for Ireland. She wrote the manual. The Taoiseach isn’t fooling her with his Brexit routine.
Borrowing from Churchill’s description of Russia, Joan informed him: “Your EU strategy, Taoiseach, is an enigma wrapped in a mystery because we can’t get any details from you.”
Which made it sound very exciting. Enda looked rather gratified.
“What are your proposals in relation to Ireland and the forthcoming Brexit? We are really still in the dark in this House. We’ve had a long conversation from you but almost no clarity of strategy. We know your concerns, we want the strategy.”
Ever obliging Enda gave her his “priorities”.
It’s all go for the Taoiseach who is due to announce when he intends stepping down as Fine Gael party leader when he returns from his St Patrick’s Day trip to the US. However, he also managed to mention yesterday that there is a very important EU summit in Rome after that . . .
And after that?