Match-making made uneasy after Berlin love parade

IT was political speed dating, but Enda was the man they were all hating.

There he was, playing the Euro-love God, swanning into the studio, bragging about his big romance with a rich, friendly frau in Berlin — while the other party leaders lived on their nerves knowing they all faced being jilted at the looming election alter.

Eamon Gilmore was especially fretting, he’d got himself into trouble and it was beginning to show — if the Labour leader didn’t get the Blueshirt shotgun marriage he’d been promised, he knew he could kiss goodbye to his precious reputation.

Mr Gilmore was scornful about Enda’s entanglement with Angela Merkel, Eamon knew it wouldn’t last and said as much, sneering, more in hurt than anger, that it was just “electioneering”. (Er, Eamon, there is an election on, remember?)

With Enda on the cusp of achieving one-party rule, the thought of him as an economic Eros — the Castlebar Cupid shooting little love arrows into Ms Merkel’s heart — was just too much for the others to stomach.

But the five-way format suited Enda as it allowed little of the intensity of the one-on-one exchanges he had with Bertie Ahern last time out. And the upshot was never gloves-off with one of the most testy exchanges being when Micheál Martin called Gerry Adams a “magician” — hardly the worst thing the Sinn Féin president has been called in his time.

Indeed, the Fianna Fáil leader concentrated a lot of his fire on Mr Adams, at one point saying it was an outrage for the SF leader to condemn fraud in the Republic with all his “baggage” in the North.

Micheál was held back by the set up and unable to deliver the full-on assault he unleashed in the TV3 debate between just himself and Mr Gilmore.

Maybe he was more restrained as he had earlier had to apologise to a fifth of humanity after accelerating straight from his choir boy persona to full fledged Father Ted figure with a bizarre attempt to mimic a Chinese accent in a bid to boost Far East investment.

We all remember the awful mess poor, bumbling, Fr Ted got into with Craggy Island’s Chinese community over a similar little misunderstanding.

Indeed, unlike its people, the Chinese government is not afraid to say what it thinks, especially about European politicians who displease it — as the final British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Pattern, will testify after he was regularly denounced by Beijing as “the jade-faced whore of the East,” and “a serpent-criminal whose sins would be condemned for a thousand antiquities”.

Mr Martin was lucky to get off with the mildest rebuke from the Irish-Chinese Information Centre in Dublin, which announced: “We forgive him.”

But unfortunately for him, it looks as if the voters will not forgive him for the past 14 years.

Hopefully, Mr Kenny, fresh back from his St Valentine’s Day dalliance with Ms Merkle had not taken a leaf out of Mr Martin’s diplomacy book and tried to win her over with his impression of John Cleese goose-stepping in Fawlty Towers.

But rather, like a blond hunk on a Greek beach, enterprising Enda had targeted a German lady of a certain age and whispered sweet nothings in her ear in the hope of gaining financial aid to send to the people back home at a later stage in the relationship.

Mr Adams, or the Baron of the Manor of Northstead, as he’s now known in Westminster as that title is forced on all MPs who resign, revelled in his podium spot on the far left.

An unusually mellow, measured, Enda was placed at the dead centre. With expectations for him so low, the fact he managed to remain upright and coherent throughout the 90 minute experience was pitched as something of a victory by supporters.

But a messy, inconclusive, clash over growth rates between the FG and Labour leaders gave Mr Martin the easy goal of “And they want to go into government together?”

John Gormley made his most telling contribution on the way into the studios when he revealed the Greens are in an even worse state than we realised, not only are they at 1% in some polls, but their leader admitted that he had to borrow a tie to wear to the debate — but at least it was blue and set him apart from the others who were almost identical in red ties, light blue shirts and dark suits — they looked like the Four Terse Men of the Economic Apocalypse.

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