Taoiseach to the Hulk: ‘I could take you, you know’

After Enda Kenny’s airport encounter with Hulk Hogan, it was business as usual at tech event South by Southwest in Texas

Taoiseach Enda Kenny met former wrestler Hulk Hogan at the airport in Atlanta

Taoiseach Enda Kenny met former wrestler Hulk Hogan at the airport in Atlanta

 

“Keep it weird,” Taoiseach Enda Kenny said in a public interview at the South by Southwest Interactive festival, riffing on the motto that has made Austin a magnet for tech entrepreneurs, artists and hipsters.

SXSW, as it is better known, is the foremost technology conference in the US, in Austin, a cool liberal oasis of a conservative state.

The second leg of the Taoiseach’s St Patrick Day visit to the US certainly started off a little weird. Leaving Atlanta, Mr Kenny’s was followed on to his plane by Hulk Hogan, the wrestler. Dressed in black, he wore a Hulk Hogan t-shirt, just in case anyone was in any doubt about his true identity.

Mr Kenny’s aides said that the wrestler and politician shared a few words and posed for a photograph beforehand in a private lounge. The Taoiseach’s staff later released the photo providing clear evidence Mr Kenny was, in fact, a Hulkamaniac.

“You know what I said to him? ‘I could take you, you know’,” the Taoiseach said later.

The Hulk sat up front in first class, the Taoiseach back in economy. In the second American state of his visit, the Taoiseach continued with his economic message that Ireland had recovered from “the great catastrophe” of being built on one sector, property, and talked up the possibilities of strengthening the business ties with the Lone Star state.

Mr Kenny met executives from Dell, an employer of about 2,500 people in Ireland which is headquartered just outside Austin, and later the state’s governor Greg Abbott at his mansion, once home to George W Bush. In between he had time to meet Irish footballer Stephanie Roche, the Fifa goal of the year nominee who now plays for Houston Dash.

Connections to Ireland

At their meeting Abbott traced the connections between Texas and Ireland from the Battle of the Alamo to Dell’s investment in Ireland. Speaking next to the governor, Mr Kenny noted that there were four Irish signatories on the state’s 1836 declaration of independence and 11 Irish died at the Alamo.

Mr Kenny was in Austin to open Ireland’s sixth consulate, describing the city as a “cauldron of innovation and enthusiasm and excitement” and praising the business-friendly environment in Texas.The Taoiseach worked the crowd at SXSW, speaking to Irish companies such as GreenLetterBox, an online postal box for customers, and Gramma Music, a provider of sounds to meet your mood, at an Enterprise Ireland-hosted showcase.

At a public interview, he was asked by an Irish girl who has been living in Australia what he could do to persuade people like her to return to Ireland.

Mr Kenny said the Government planned to reduce income tax rates to attract people back to Ireland.“I get phone calls from Singapore and from Australia, and they say: ‘You know, I’d like to go back – I know I can get a job – but your tax rate is too high,’” said the Taoiseach.

In weird, sunny Austin, Mr Kenny was also asked about the temporary legalising of drugs and whether Ireland’s cold climate was a reason why large tech companies set up data centres. Ireland enjoyed a “good dash of rain,” he said, which “cools people and facilities”.

For the future, the Government wanted to protect itself against another recession by having a broad-based economy, he said, and to have “sufficient capacity for the rainy day – God knows we have enough of those.”