St Bono wows EU leaders at convention centre

Angela Merkel and Enda Kenny fly the flags

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Taoiseach Enda Kenny at yesterday’s press conference in Goverment Buildings. Photograph: David Sleator

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Taoiseach Enda Kenny at yesterday’s press conference in Goverment Buildings. Photograph: David Sleator


There it was: the German flag flying proud above Government Buildings.

And German chancellor Angela Merkel would soon be on her way through the streets of Dublin to Merrion Street.

But where was Enda?

Business at the European People’s Party congress across the river in the Convention Centre was running behind schedule. When they finished their speeches, the Taoiseach and the chancellor would be leaving to take lunch together at his offices.

The small crowd waiting outside Government Buildings began to fret. Would the Irish flag untangle itself from the mast in time for the arrivals? Would Dr Merkel arrive with one arm as long as the other, or would she come bearing a financial gift? (She didn’t.)

The military police at the front door wore their medals. The handful of protesters outside the gates rehearsed their chants.

Finally, nearly 90 minutes behind schedule, the Taoiseach turned up and took up position at the top of the steps. Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore barrelled out to join him.

And the Tricolor unfurled just as the large German convoy of Mercs and BMWs spun around the courtyard.

Master of plámás
Enda leapt forward to greet Dr Merkel, manhandling her up the steps before seizing her hand and planting kisses on her cheek – a past master when it comes to the plámás.

Eamon was more reserved. He couldn’t quite bring himself to do the kissy-kissy stuff.

They posed for photographs. Then mine host ushered his guest indoors, pointing the way with sweeping gestures.

Once they were moving, the rest of Dr Merkel’s entourage belted through the doors. Hordes of them decanted from the cars and two luxury coaches. Lunch awaited the heads of state in the Sycamore Room, where they ate a no-nonsense meal of Irish beef, spuds and veg followed by soufflé and a nice cup of tea.

Bono wasn’t there. He had been the star of the show back in the convention centre, much to the rapture of the foreign visitors. The U2 frontman was the “surprise” guest speaker.

This came as a terrible disappointment to the home contingent, fervently hoping that Twink might reprise her last show-stopping performance in front of a Fine Gael conference.

But Bono is Enda’s new best friend and the political big beasts of Europe at the top table seemed quite star-struck by his presence. It was a clever move by the Taoiseach to have him there, making this EPP congress a rare occasion when delegates might remember one of these dull events.

The sight of St Bono communing with world leaders has the power to send a lot of Irish people into apoplectic rage.

As he spoke yesterday, the non-Irish members of the audience lapped up his every word while local observers sniggered quietly.

He certainly knows how to fill a hall. It was standing room only by the time he finished his first few paragraphs.

But to be fair to Bono, his speech was good – in a rock star, touchy-feely kind of way. How he managed to read the autocue in the dark hall in those sunglasses was an achievement in itself.

“They don’t teach modesty at rock star school,” he told his enraptured audience. “My wife sent me to modesty school. I’m fine now, in fact I’m better than most people at it . . .”

This prompted one native begrudger to snort: “She shudda looked for her money back.” Bono was full of praise for “Taoiseach Enda” but he also heaped plaudits on Gilmore and the Labour Party for their role in “getting us through this crisis”. Gilmore wouldn’t have argued when he said “real leadership has cost them real votes”.

World’s toe-curling capital
Love, of course, got a mention. “Sounds a bit hippy, but I actually like the word ‘love’ being used, because I love Europe,” said Bono. At this point, Dublin became the toe-curling capital of the world.

“I want, just for a second, to just allow myself to get emotional about the European project,” he said, as he talked about a group hug, prompting a stampede for the sick bags from some of the home side.

Mention of the financial transaction tax also raised eyebrows among the cynics, but not from the vast majority in the hall. They loved him.

Bono’s speech entertainingly ticked all the boxes of many speeches made by political thinkers about the EU “an economic entity that needs to become a social entity”.

President Michael D Higgins, among others, has been saying that for a long time.

Ireland is recovering from the economic crisis – not because of the troika but despite it, declared Bono.

“The way I see it, the Irish people bailed the Irish people out.”

The way others see it, the Irish people bailed the banks out.

But it was a good turn. He also mentioned Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, the Eurovision, U2 and the Oscars. And, being a rock star he even got to say “bollocks”. We’d love to know how that went down in the translation booths.

The week began for Enda at his successful ardfheis and ended with his equally successful eurofheis. In between, he got to hang out with Dr Merkel, Bono and a plethora of political heavyweights from Europe.

Next he’s off to the United States, where Capitol Hill and Barack Obama await.

There’ll be no talking to him when he gets back.

A big job in Europe can’t be too far off.