Not so much Enter The Dragon, more like Enda The Dragon — well, that’s how the Taoiseach would like to think of it any way.
Thankfully, he decided not to try to emulate the diplomatic skills of Micheál Martin and mimic a borderline racist Chinese accent, but instead moved to seduce his audience with flattery at a major trade push.
Enda listed all the characteristics of this newly born Year of the Dragon and seemed to embody them himself because his speech really did drag on, and on, and on.
Xi Jinping was much brisker in delivery and made it clear he wanted to get down to business as he deployed what he said was the old Irish proverb of: “You can’t plough a field by turning it over in your mind.”
However, an unscientific, though fairly broad, survey of Irish people in the audience found that none of them had ever heard this ancient piece of Celtic wisdom before.
So, if we are going to start trading makey-upy national sayings, maybe we could think of a few appropriate ones for Xi’s China, like: “You can’t suppress Tibet without breaking a few heads.”
Not that Tibet was ever really referred to as Enda and Eamon Gilmore went through the diplomatic fig leaf of vaguely mentioning human rights in a “wider context”. Hmm.
The foreign minister even insisted both countries had things to learn from each other on the issue. Though Mr Gilmore failed to explain what Ireland has to learn on human rights from a country like China, where poets are sent to jail for seven years for daring to write a few verses about the merits of democracy.
Even this was not as jaw-droppingly outrageous as Gilmore’s crass linking of human rights and trade.
“No, we didn’t raise specific cases, anymore than we raised specific trade investments,” he said.
Which makes you really wonder what went on in those discussions: “Well your excellency: We won’t mention Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, serving an 11-year sentence for calling for peaceful democratic reform — nor will we ask for that software contract, nudge, nudge. But if we did say we were a teensy bit concerned about human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng being “disappeared” in state custody, you wouldn’t forget about those calf exports, would you, your excellency? Grovel, grovel.”
It was a telling slip of the veil by Mr Gilmore — who conspired with the Chinese to ban media questioning of Xi — and gave lie to the claim this Government either cares about human rights abuses in China, or can do much of anything about them.
China is 325 times bigger than Ireland, and Mr Gilmore was correct when he stated Xi would just “ignore” the raising of individual abuses.
Which begs the question: why does this Government then bother carrying on with the hypocrisy of pretending it has an ethical foreign policy?
When Mr Kenny listed the Year of the Dragon characteristics that Ireland — and by extension he — possessed such as “passion” and “tenacity”, he did not refer to the drawbacks of dragons.
One authority on such characteristics states a negative aspect that could well sum-up the attitude of Xi’s China when tackled on human rights: “When questioned, the dragon can become ferocious, even to the point of being dangerous, which is why this person should not be tempted. Otherwise, you would expect to see a hotheaded individual explode.”
Enda The Dragon: Exit The Conscience.
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