Political maneuverings at home and abroad

The French election has come and gone and Monsieur Macron has handsomely defeated Marine Le Pen.

The exit poll was exactly accurate. Of course, those polls are usually so because the voters have already voted. So, there was great relief all round Europe and, I think, in most countries, that this young man who is idealistic and determined to do good for Europe and for France is now in charge. I saw stunning photographs of himself and Brigitte as they celebrated with their supporters on Sunday night.

I do however noticed one irritating habit he has. In his election manifesto he twice referred to Ireland and our Corporation Tax rate. I think he should keep his nose out of that. We are entitled, both in European terms and in national terms, to have our 12.5 per cent Corporation Tax rate.

We now have to defend our rate against the reduction in the US, down to 15 per cent, and in the UK as well, without having France sticking its nose into our business. M. Macron, you will have plenty to do to lift France up without worrying about a small country called Ireland.

The only large election left now is early September when Angela Merkel will be going to the polls, and there will be great anticipation and worked-up European feelings about that.

As we are talking about Angela Merkel, I am sure many of our readers took note of the carry-on of Jean-Claude Junker, the president of the European Commission, and the chief negotiator, Michel Bernier, who visited Theresa May for dinner last week in No 10 Downing Street.

They were seen kissing her and going in to No 10. Then, lo and behold, the next morning at 7.30am Junker rang Angela Merkel and proceeded to gossip like ‘an auld wan’ over a half-door somewhere, and proceeded to tell her that the dinner was not good and that Theresa May was living in a galaxy different to everyone else who is facing Brexit.

Now, I am sure many of the Advertiser readers thought that very bad manners. I think Jean-Claude Junker’s mother never told him that you do not take hospitality and then run away to talk negatively about it. But that is exactly what he did.

Of course, we should not be surprised. This is the same Jean-Claude who mercilessly bullied Brian Lenihan Jnr when he was Minister for Finance, and equally bullied Michael Noonan later on when he took on the role. So, he simply has no decent feelings in him.

I thought it was such rude, unmannerly and discourteous behaviour - kissing Theresa May on the steps of Downing Street, gobbling down her dinner, and then running back to ring Angela Merkel and tell her the food was bad? Look, that is the kind of people in whom we are putting our trust, and it is the kind of people who should be told the truth.

I would love to meet Mr Junker. I met him once in 2010 and I would love to meet him again and to say exactly to him what I think of his lack of manners. I am disappointed in Angela Merkel too that she would have arranged to talk with him the next morning to tell her all about his visit to Theresa May. The gossipers of Europe are many and small minded.

Meanwhile, Theresa May is pressing on and every move she makes and everything she says points, more and more, to a very difficult Brexit, so certainly it does not bode well for us in Ireland. All the sweet-talk from Mr Barnier, the chief negotiator, will soon be just seen as words in the wind if there is no express belief and proof of what they are saying – that they have Ireland’s interest at heart.

The Public Service Pay Report is out today and Paschal Donohoe and Michael Noonan will swing into action dealing with it and meeting the unions for talks. Public service pay is going to be a huge issue. The participants want a lifting of the FENPI legislation, a renewal of all they have lost under that legislation and, on top of that, an increase.

Now, I do not know where all this is going to lead us. Paschal Donohoe seems wise and cautious and of course Michael Noonan is most certainly wise and cautious. So, we will see what develops in that line.

I hear there are stirrings of rebellion within the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI ) ranks, and I am not at all surprised. Apparently, a rump within them do not like the way they are being led and they have got enough signatures to hold a special convention during the next few days. So, we will see what emerges from that.

A small item, which did not take up much paper or TV space but which I was delighted to read, was that a group of 82 two girls who had been kidnapped by Boko Haram were released into the Nigerian capital Abuja in the last few days. They were among 270 school girls who were kidnapped in April 2014 by the militant group, which has waged an eight-year insurgency to create an Islamist area, killing thousands and forcing more than two million people from their homes.

Nigeria secured their release with mediation by the International Committee of the Red Cross. I am so happy to know that so many of the girls have been released, but there are many more to follow.

Remember the time they were kidnapped by the militants who broke into their dormitory and just took them away and we saw horrific pictures of them all, kidnapped and sitting in groups? Some were sold into marriage, some into slavery, but it looks like a breakthrough has happened and I hope they can now live out their lives in peace and happiness.

I also remember Michelle Obama taking the lead, some three years ago, in talking publicly and writing articles about the kidnapped girls, but the whole thing faded so quickly away that one was inclined to forget it until last weekend.

I had a lovely evening recently in Portlaoise in the Heritage Hotel. Network Ireland, which is a group of women in Ireland, joined with Enterprise Ireland for a roadshow called ‘Fuelling Ambition’, which was all about ensuring that women in small and medium-sized industries get constant encouragement, both monetary and spoken advice, to enable them to carry on their businesses.

There were more than 70 small and medium businesses represented in the Heritage Hotel, and I was delighted to be invited by both Network Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to act as facilitator for the whole event. It was a really great night – lots of verve, lots of courage displayed by the women taking business risk and succeeding.

Network and Enterprise Ireland have asked me to be facilitator at the Cavan Fuelling Ambition night which is to be held at the Farnham Estate, Co Cavan. So, I am looking forward to that.

Final note. We will have a Minister in Athlone Town again come June 1 when Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran succeeds Sean Canney as Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief. We all look forward to that. The last Minister in Athlone was in 2002. It does the town good to be represented at junior or senior Minister level, and we all look forward to Boxer’s tenure as Minister and wish him good luck in the task.

That is all for now.

Talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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