Madame Mary Lou makes Sarkozy an offer he can't refuse

Mon, Jun 23, 2008, 01:00

Mary Lou McDonald gives the French president advice on saving the Lisbon Treaty ... as imagined by Michael Parsons.

'BONJOUR, MARY Lou!" said a beaming huissier(tipstaff) as the visiting "VIP" entered the Irish Embassy on Avenue Foch.

From the moment her flight had landed in Paris she had been gratified by the enthusiastic welcome from tout le monde. On the Rue de la Paix, an elderly man had actually kissed her hand and, his eyes brimming with tears, declared: " Merci Madame, vous avez sauvé la démocratie!"

In the Place Vendôme, she had overheard a teacher explain to a crocodile of gaily dressed lycéens: " Regardez, c'est Madame Non!" The children had cheered and waved. TV camera crews and newspaper reporters had thronged her impromptu press conference beneath the Eiffel Tower. " La nouvelle Jeanne d'Arc", exclaimed a hardened hack (quite overcome) from the conservative Le Figaro. " Plutôt Rosa Luxemburg" said the star-struck correspondent from the left-wing Libération.

She was now on her way to the Élysée Palace for a meeting with the French president. The invitation had made it clear: M Sarkozy wished to see Mme McDonald alone. The Irish diplomats were privately appalled but tried to hide their dismay. They repeatedly asked the MEP if she needed a briefing but she assured them she was "grand".

As the official car purred along Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Mary Lou looked again at her list of demands. It would be an interesting meeting. Passing the oh-so- soignéLanvin shop she glimpsed a gorgeous green dress in the window and resolved to stop on the return journey to treat herself. After all, she reasoned, "I'm worth it too" - and nothing is too good for the working woman.

The chef du protocole greeted her at the palace entrance. She was ushered into a salon and asked to wait a few moments. She took the opportunity to do a last-minute check in a huge, gilded Louis Quinze mirror. And was pleased she had decided on the slinky, taupe Armani. And reflected that the Hermès "Kelly" bag from Brown Thomas added a nice Gallic touch. Suddenly, the double doors were thrown open by a magnificently helmeted officer of La Garde Républicaine who barked: " Le Président de la République". The dapper, Charvet-shirted M Sarkozy crossed the polished parquet, stopped before her and leaned on his tiptoes to kiss her on both cheeks.

" S'il vous plaît, Madame," he said, gesturing to a walnut Louis Philippe chair, beautifully upholstered in apricot silk, and invited her to be seated. "Madame McDonald," the president began, "we have a very big problem now in Europe. What is it precisely that you want to change in the Lisbon Treaty?"

"Please Monsieur Le Président, call me Mary Lou. There's no need to stand on ceremony now, is there? After all, we're both republicans.

"Well, Nicolas," she went on, "I think you know exactly what the problems are."

He felt slightly guilty. His officials had been unable - during interminable briefings - to explain exactly why les Irlandaisvoted Non.

She continued: "You are French. I am Irish. We share certain ideals. Liberté, égalité et fraternité. Or 'parity of esteem' as we say in mon pays. We are both, in a sense, revolutionaries. We hate the Anglo-Saxon military-industrial alliance. We want justice for the oppressed, downtrodden masses. We want to halt the spread of privatisation. We want to enhance workers' rights. We want greater transparency in the Brussels decision-making process. And we want to protect our farmers from Mandelson's wicked agenda. Don't we?"

He gulped as he grasped the sheer scale of her agenda. But he was spellbound and momentarily forgot about the right-wing policies on which he had been elected.

"But my hands are tied, Mary Lou. All 26 other countries want to proceed. What can I do?"

Mary Lou gazed at him with such intensity - and barely concealed contempt - that M Sarkozy thought his heart would stop beating.

"Look, it's very simple," she said, "You are the president of France. You can do anything."

His chest swelled with Napoleonic pride.

"You know the people of France also hate this treaty. Why not make a grand gesture which will appeal to them and infuriate the British? Here's a list of amendments which we'd like. Just tell the other leaders there will be a new text agreed during the French presidency. The ordinary people all over Europe will love you for it, you will save the EU from paralysis and you will become the unchallenged, leading statesman of our time."

" Mon Dieu," he thought, " elle est intelligente ainsi que belle." Yes, brains as well as beauty. What hot-blooded Frenchman could not but be smitten? "I cannot promise," he said, "but if I do this can you guarantee to deliver a Yes vote in Ireland next time?"

" Mais oui," she said, smiling cryptically.

" Alors," he said, "I will consider your proposal. But what about Monsieur Ganley? He has a rather different agenda from you."

"Don't worry," replied Mary Lou, "We'll take care of him."