Miriam Lord: Leo has his birthday toasted by Farage in Strasbourg
Nigel Farage happy to get on like a house on fire with Varadkar and his people
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Nigel Farage at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. They both look very happy as they enjoy a pre-lunch glass of bubbly
It was not just a big week for birthday boy Leo. It was also a big week for Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher, who was part of the Oireachtas committee examining the findings of the Citizens’ Assembly and the member who proposed that abortion should be legally available to Irish women in the first trimester of pregnancy.
That must have been a difficult decision for a dyed in the wool Fianna Fáil TD to reach. Socialist TD and fellow committee member Ruth Coppinger clearly thought so. After the committee produced its report, she was seen enthusiastically hugging Billy after their final meeting. He’s still not the better of it.
Billy, who represents Cork North Central, turns 50 today. Massive celebrations, we hear.
Meanwhile, having had his 39th birthday toasted by none other than Nigel Farage in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Leo Varadkar insisted on a photo to capture the moment. They both look very happy as they enjoy a pre-lunch glass of bubbly. The lunch for Irish MEPs and European Parliament group leaders was hosted by MEP Mairead McGuinness.
Farage, as it turned out, was double booked. He was also invited with other EU group leaders to a lunch in honour of the president of Bulgaria, Boyko Borisov, hosted by the president of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani. Bulgaria currently holds the EU presidency.
He opted to dine with the Irish. Farage is very convivial company. Pity about his politics.
Having done his best to insult the Taoiseach on the floor of the parliament, Farage and his entourage seemed somewhat disconcerted by the welcome they got from the Leo and his people. They clearly expected Irish noses to be out of joint, whereas nobody seemed in the least bit bothered. That’s not the way disruptive behaviour is supposed to be received.
Perhaps the way to deal with dangerous notice-boxes like Farage is to smother them with niceness. Nonetheless, Nigel was happy to get on like a house on fire with the Taoiseach and his people.
And before McGuinness’s lunch was over, Tajani and the rest of the MEPs had landed over to join Leo and the gang.
Earlier in the day, after Varadkar completed his first speech to the parliament, Nigel had a right go at him for being a puppet of the EU. It wasn’t surprising, he reckoned, because didn’t Leo, when he was much younger, spend some time working in the European Parliament?
In his reply to remarks from MEPs on his speech on the future of Europe, Leo didn’t let the Farage dig go unremarked.
“I’ve never worked here, by the way,” he said, as Farage shrugged and the chamber burst into applause.
The Taoiseach’s actual birthday was on Thursday. He had a quiet enough day – he shares the date with John Hume – but staff in his office in Government Buildings laid on a cake and candles and sang Happy Birthday to him.