The full Irish with Bill brings home the PR bacon
Dáil Sketch:We were only saying here yesterday that Enda is a great man for the name-dropping.
So it is to his credit that he managed to get through his Wednesday morning stint in the Dáil without mentioning the name of one of the richest men in the world.
But that would have been stealing the Tánaiste’s thunder.
And while the Taoiseach got that all-important courtesy call and photo with billionaire Bill Gates, it was Eamon Gilmore who got to have breakfast with him.
Bill seemed in good form afterwards. And why not? Despite all the bad press the domestic food industry has been receiving of late, you still can’t beat a full Irish.
And Eamon treated him to one in Iveagh House: sausages and puddin’ and top-notch rashers of the non-hairy variety. You wouldn’t get that in Silicon Valley.
The Tánaiste, by the way, ordered his with poached eggs. Bill Gates opted for scrambled. Obviously, had Enda been present, he would have looked for them sunny-side up.
The Microsoft founder had lots of good things to say about Ireland after his round of meetings in Dublin – he also paid a visit to Michael D in Áras an Uachtaráin.
Doubtless, Enda and Eamon will be hoping that the hugely influential Gates continues to talk us up on his travels around Europe.
It’s all good publicity, particularly as Bill sounded afterwards like a disciple of the gospel according to Kenny. The renowned philanthropist seems of the view that, despite our economic woes, Ireland is one the best small countries in the world in which to do business.
No wonder Enda had a pep in his step when he returned to Leinster House for Leaders’ Questions. The fact that David Cameron has decided to embark on a lengthy hokey-cokey around Britain’s future membership of the EU – in or out, shake it all about – could only have added to his good humour.
But it must be a trial nonetheless for the Taoiseach to have to abandon his International Man of Mayo jetsetting ways in order to attend to domestic matters in the Dáil.
The Opposition got to see him for a few hours before he had to leave for the World Economic Forum in Davos. Bill Gates was going there too.
If Enda has any sense he will have taken a wrap-up under his arm to present to Bill when they meet again – the fixings of a full Irish fry to remind him of his time here.
In the meantime, the Taoiseach sound very buoyed by all his high-profile PR work on behalf of Ireland.
“At long last, there are signs of confidence in this country, including investor confidence, and our international reputation has been restored. We are moving in the right direction” he told the House.
Opposition leaders weren’t in the humour for the sales pitch.
Mary Lou McDonald contrasted the lower pay on offer to graduate nurses with huge pensions of former government ministers and the Taoiseach’s own salary.
Enda didn’t appreciate Sinn Féin’s deputy leader raining on his parade. Did she not think it a good thing that 1,000 new jobs were to be created for nursing graduates, thus saving them from having to go abroad to seek work? Then he delivered a low blow.
“I also understand the Sinn Féin leader went abroad to have treatment under a health system in the United States. He is entitled to do that, but as I understand all Sinn Féin deputies are earning the industrial wage, these things are difficult to understand fully.” Mary Lou ignored him and Finian McGrath howled indignantly about a deputy’s personal health being his own personal business.
As for the new structures which his Government wants in the Department of Health, Enda remarked: “It’s a system of the money following the patient.”
“The money follows James Reilly,” snorted Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen.
But Enda would not be deflected from his post-Bill Gates optimism. He had a sense that things are “coming right” and job opportunities are opening up again.
And he wishes Richard Boyd Barrett would, for once, try to be constructive instead of always protesting.
“The deputy should have listened to the national media in the past three days as even they were surprised at the positive news of investment and job creation in the country.”
Did Enda tell this to Pat Rabbitte? Pat thinks it’s negativity all the way from the commentariat.
Meanwhile, it appears that the Dáil spokespeople for the technical group – they’ve been rotated again and comprise RBB, John Halligan and Mattie McGrath – are now known as the Troika.
When Mattie started to act up, the Ceann Comhairle reminded him of his new exalted position. “You’ve taken up a senior position in the Troika now. You’ll have to behave differently.”
“I’m very well behaved, I think,” sniffed Mattie, with a petulant shrug.