Miriam Lord: Kenny assures Brexit VIP of his insignificance

House updated on Government’s assessment of future consistency of the Border

The EU's chief negotiator on Brexit got a warm welcome on his visit to meet the Taoiseach.

He must have been delighted to hear the car horns blaring as he was driven through the gates of Leinster House. And most gratified by the sight of uniformed gardaí keeping back the hordes of happy drivers who had stopped their vehicles to shout indistinct good wishes.

They even threw in some Freddie Mercury.

I see a little silhouetto of a man, Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango? Thunderbolt and lightning, Very, very frightening me


Yes indeed, Michel Barnier must have thought, the Irish are really very, very worried about the implications of Brexit on their friendly little nation. But such a musical nation.

Actually, Barnier doesn't have a small silhouette; he's a very tall and distinguished-looking fellow. But it was good of the taxi drivers – protesting in the street opposite against rising motor tax – to treat him to a deafening blast of Bohemian Rhapsody on his way in.

We’ll need him to fully appreciate our concerns when the time comes to negotiate.

The former French European commissioner just missed Enda Kenny speaking in the Dáil, defending his Government against Micheál Martin's claims that the budget hasn't been "Brexit-proofed" enough. The Taoiseach sounded like we all do when dithering over a box of Milk Tray: caramel or fudge?

Or as he put it to the Fianna Fáil leader: "What is the Brexit issue? Is it a hard Border? Is it a soft Border?"

Ready Brek

He was at pains to stress that the Government is working hard to become Ready Brek, sorry, “Brexit Ready”.

"Today I meet Michel Barnier, who is coming here on behalf of the European Commission.

“I point out to the House that irrespective of the work that the commission will do here, it will be the EU Council – that is the elected leaders and heads of government – that will oversee the political decisions arising from the Brexit situation.”

Just as well that the VIP visitor was there to hear Enda say he isn’t as important as he might think he is.

Barnier pitched up in the chamber as AAA-PBP's Ruth Coppinger grilled the Taoiseach on the budget's childcare package.

She wondered who advised him on the budget. Was it Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, who was recently lauded by the Minister for Finance at a Fine Gael fundraiser? Or was it former PD junior minister Tom Parlon, who now heads the Builders' Confederation?

“Nobody has advocated the first-time buyer’s grant. The housing committee didn’t, yet Tom Parlon apparently did, and he gets what he wants. It doesn’t even apply to cheaper second-hand homes for young people.”

Parlon is the anti-Macavity of Irish politics. He’s a Leinster House regular. Always there.

Take budget day. The place was unusually quiet on Tuesday but a smiling Parlon was very much in evidence, showing guests around the building during the day before settling with them in the bar.

Back to Coppinger, who didn’t know what way to take what Enda was saying about childcare.

“There is talk out of two or three sides of the Government’s mouth on this issue.”

Three sides would be correct – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Independents.

Gerry Adams was only concerned with the two main parties. "The budget is not about what is best for our people, economy or public services, it is a budget about Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. The evolution of these parties now means that if you vote for one, you get the other one for free."

Unusually for the Sinn Féin script writers, they missed a trick. Had they gone with the well-known supermarket slogan of “buy one, get one free”, they could have given Gerry the gift of a “Bogof Budget”.

At the end of Leaders’ Questions, the Ceann Comhairle announced – to the bewilderment of most observers – that there would be two more Leaders’ Questions “to compensate for the fact we did not have Leaders’ Questions yesterday”.

A sort of budget bonus.


Meanwhile, Minister of State for Europe Dara Murphy was over to soft-soap Barnier like a shot. Murphy appeared to be on his knees when talking to the Frenchman, but was sitting on the step next to his seat. He then conveyed his guest outside, where a large number of officials were waiting along with an impressively brassed Army officer and Frances Fitzgerald in fire-engine red.

They went off in the direction of the Taoiseach’s office in Government Buildings, a man carrying a very large bouquet of flowers bringing up the rear.

And speaking of entourages, the big event of the morning was the appearance of Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan before the Justice Committee.

“Did you see how many people were with her?” marvelled a Leinster House staffer afterwards. “I counted 14 in her entourage. Fourteen? Sure the bleedin’ Kardashians wouldn’t have dat.”