We arrived in Ireland on Monday morning. So too did the French President, but there was rather more fuss about him. Virtually everyone in the country had been seething about reports (which were, of course, denied) that he had said to his advisers after news of the Referendum result reached Paris that “the Irish will just have to vote again”. Miriam Lord, the Irish Times sketch-writer wrote an amusing account of Le Prez’s visit. It closes thus:
“I do not regret for one second having come over,” cooed Nicolas, who was charm personified. You could see he has charisma, and he has a nice smile, mused the ladies. Très distingué .
“Three-minute man,” sniffed the lads.
It went swimmingly, until the president protested that he couldn’t force the Irish to do anything.
“Have you seen the size of the Irish Taoiseach, talking about shaking up. He’s not a man you shake up easily, or shake down for that matter. Do I look as if I’ve been shaken in any way?” he said, to a sharp intake of breath from the locals.
Right enough, beside the diminutive Sarko, Biffo looked a bit like the Queen of Tonga.
The offensive was working a treat. Our Taoiseach is a “brave, courageous man” and “Ireland is a a warm country with a tradition of hospitality, a great country”. Then it was over. But not before Nicolas, who is very touchy-feely, had caressed Brian’s hand. The Taoiseach put them behind his back in case it happened again. Then, the French president made a lunge for Biffo and kissed him on both cheeks.
Biffo air-kissed gamely, making a disconcerting sloshing noise, but you could see he was mortified. He’ll be the laughing stock of Clara, but at least he can say he puckered up for Ireland.
A French kiss for an Irish Taoiseach on the steps of Government Buildings.
That’s Europe for you.
Footnote: Clara, in Offaly, is the Taoiseach’s home town, where — up to now at least — he has been much admired.