Take one giant ship and a politician facing choppy waters and it was inevitable that yesterday’s fine weather would be clouded by the looming icebergs of Brexit, the Eighth Amendment referendum, and a certain gossiping minister looming ominously into view.
And so it was for Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who was one of the few people attending the picturesque christening of the MV Celine in sunny Dublin Port to peer over his sunglasses to check when the political weather was about to change.
In an event to underline how Ireland has put in place back-up plans to cope with Brexit, Mr Varadkar and other high-profile officials yesterday travelled to Dublin Port to climb aboard the MV Celine for its first official engagement.
Cheekily dubbed the Brexit Buster, the ship — which is the world’s largest roll on-roll off cargo vessel — will allow Irish exporters to send their products to mainland Europe while bypassing Britain, and thereby any potentially stifling Brexit trade tariffs in the process.
With the sun beating down, the water glistening in the picturesque harbour below, cello players performing, and the likes of John Sheahan of the Dubliners and Colm Mac Iomaire of The Frames entertaining invited attendees, the scene was a welcome alternative to the hot and heavy nature of Leinster House.
Only, as most good captains and any politician worth their salt knows all too well, even the calmest of seas can turn deadly in the blink of an eye.
With guests enjoying the sights and free champagne, Mr Varadkar stood on the port and observed his surroundings, took a breath, and prepared for the storm fronts approaching.
Asked about Communication Minister Denis Naughten’s decision to swim out into dangerous waters by whispering sweet nothings, the Taoiseach spun the ship’s steering wheel like an expert and insisted the words were in fact just nothings and will not sink his patched-up coalition.
Queried on the latest referendum poll showing the gap is narrowing between the yes and no sides, he consulted his compass and felt a complete ignoring of the fact coupled with a “welcome” to the news that the yes side remains in front was the best course.
Full steam ahead, but then... iceberg ahead.
With the latest revelations that the EU has outright rejected Britain’s soft Irish border and Northern Ireland plans, and others describing them as “fantasy island unicorn” politics, Mr Varadkar doubled down with a warning the talks themselves could sink to the ocean floor by June unless progress is made.
Like a captain who believes they can blast through the icy waters and tame the ocean itself, Mr Varadkar talked tough yesterday in a bid to ensure Ireland gets to its planned destination safe and sound.
However, given the nature of what is at stake, it remains to be seen whether the decision will see his ship become the political equivalent of the QE2 or will suffer the same fate as the “unsinkable” Titanic in the months ahead.
Yesterday may have been sunny and serene, but don’t underestimate the potential for Brexit to always rain on a parade.
Batten down the hatches, Captain Leo. There’s a storm a-coming.
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