IT took God seven days to create the world, Enda Kenny joked in a succession of speeches in Washington on St Patrick’s Day, making it the same number of days he had been in the office of Taoiseach.
Comparing himself to the Lord in front of the leader of the United States of America, Barack Obama, might have been a stretch too far. But Enda Kenny could be forgiven for his case of God delusion as he celebrated his first full week in the job.
For on the seventh day, he walked up the steps of the Capitol Building, in what he said was “personally” one of his greatest ever moments; he had breakfast with another one of Mayo’s favourite sons, Vice-President Joe Biden, who he invited to his home county; and he sat down in the Oval Office with the leader of the free world who accepted his invitation to visit Ireland.
It was noted that the Taoiseach should just resign now, because it is not going to get much better for him than this. But his honeymoon period in office will continue, at least until the Obamas visit Ireland.
The visit will be a major boost for the Taoiseach and his administration as it tries to rebuild Ireland’s damaged reputation and assure investors around the world that Ireland is a good place to do business.
It will be a boost for tourism, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday.
But most of all it will be a big boost for the Irish people. It is the perfect antidote to the arrival of the IMF last November and symbolises the dawn of a more positive Ireland.
As Mr Kenny himself put it yesterday: “Barack Obama believes in us. It’s time to start believing in ourselves.”
Of course, it will also be a boost for Barack Obama, who faces into next year’s campaign to secure a second term in the November 2012 presidential election in which the Irish-American vote will be vital.
Mr Obama appears more than happy to embrace his Irish heritage and we are willing to claim him as one of our own.
“There has been some controversy about my own background. Two years into my presidency, some are still bent on peddling rumours about my origins,” he said to laughter at an address at the Capitol Building on St Patrick’s Day. “So today I want to put all those rumours to rest. It is true my great-great-great-grandfather really was from Ireland. It’s true. Moneygall, to be precise. I can’t believe I have to keep pointing this out.”
The visit comes at a time when Ireland needs friends in America more than ever. It is “historic” as Mr Kenny said.
In our economic recovery, our relationship with America is vital and Mr Obama has promised to help: “Ireland is going to be bouncing back from the severe economic challenges that it’s experienced over the last several years.
“The Taoiseach shared with me his plans and his efforts to make sure that people are put back to work in Ireland, that the financial system is stabilised.
“And he exudes great confidence, and I’m sure that we will be cooperating very closely with him and providing any assistance that we can on the economic front.”
Asked yesterday what he meant by “assistance” Mr Kenny said he was referring to continuing close co-operation. He said US support for any change in the loan agreement with the IMF would be “very important”.
Overall, Mr Obama said: “The state of the relationship between our two countries is extraordinarily strong... The warmth, the affection, the familial and person-to-person contacts between our two countries extend far beyond any dry policy issues.”
As he departed Washington yesterday, Mr Kenny can be confident of passing the first major test in office — charming the Americans and bringing back with him the promise of a presidential visit, which is likely to lift the mood of a weary nation.
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