Kenny to explain role in ‘unfortunate affair’

FINE GAEL leader Enda Kenny has been asked to explain what role, if any, he played in an attempt to stop the Taoiseach addressing the European Parliament on the ratification of the EU constitution.

The European People’s Party, to which Fianna Gael is closely affiliated, tried to have the European Parliament withdraw its invitation to the Taoiseach to address the parliament next month.

Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern said: “I am calling on Enda Kenny to issue an immediate statement of clarification on this unfortunate affair.

“Did Deputy Kenny support the attempt by the Fine Gael group in the European Parliament to have An Taoiseach’s invite rescinded? What was his specific role in the attempt? Did he instigate it? Did he support it? Does he now regret it?

“The leadership role of our Taoiseach in negotiating the European Constitution is recognised across the continent.”

However, a Fine Gael spokesman said Mr Kenny was not in any way behind the move.

“Enda Kenny has no knowledge of this matter. He has no objection to the Taoiseach discussing the European constitution with the European Parliament and is looking forward to regular reports and debates in the Dáil on the constitution and other European matters,” he said.

Fianna Fáil MEP Sean Ó Neachtain described the Fine Gael move as simply an attempt to embarrass the Taoiseach on the international stage.

“Had it succeeded, and thankfully it did not, a lot of damage would have been done to Ireland and its international reputation,” Mr Ó Neachtain said. “We have always sought to promote the Irish people in the highest international arena. This was simply an effort from on high in Fine Gael, I would suggest, because I do not believe for a moment that this came from the Fine Gael MEPs of their own volition.

“I believe it came from Fine Gael at the top.”

However, Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell demanded that the Taoiseach and the Government make clear their position on the future of the European Treaty in the Dáil before Bertie Ahern heads for Europe to speak on the subject.

He said: “Twenty-five prime ministers were invited to address the parliament. I think that was a silly thing to do in the first place. The only two who accepted were the Hungarian Prime Minister, who is up to his eyes in trouble for telling lies, and the Taoiseach who said he would come and address us on the future of the EU Constitution.

“The whole idea of bringing these prime ministers in the first place is nonsense because we get no publicity for it and we get no opportunity to have an exchange,” he added.

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