herald

Saturday 18 August 2018

Enda cosies up to Merkel in his 'statesman' role

BERTIE called on old pals Blair and Clinton last time -- now Enda is turning to German leader Angela Merkel to boost his electoral chances.

The Fine Gael leader has worked his way into Ms Merkel's Valentine's diary for a quick pre-election meeting.

The face-to-face talks have been dismissed as a glorified "photo opportunity" by Fianna Fail, but sources within Fine Gael say it is a "significant coup" for Enda Kenny.

After a surge in the latest opinion polls, Fine Gael are hoping to keep the momentum rolling during the five-way leaders' debate tonight.

First though he was due in Berlin around noon where he promised to hold frank talks about Ireland's situation with his European colleague.

"With EU member states set to reach major decisions, I intend to use all the contacts and relationships that I and my party have built up in Europe over the years to fight hard for Ireland's interests," said Mr Kenny in advance of the trip.

He was set to brief the German leader on Fine Gael's five-point plan and signal the party's intent to seek changes to the content and cost of the EU/IMF deal.

Debate

Ms Merkel wrote a letter endorsing Fine Gael in advance of the 2007 but this was totally overshadowed when Fianna Fail ran a TV advertising showing support Bertie Ahern from Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and George Mitchell. Fine Gael has also touted the idea of asking the US Federal Reserve for a $50bn loan at an interest rate of just 1pc.

Speaking ahead of tonight's debate, new Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has criticised Mr Kenny for leaving Ireland in the middle of the election campaign.

He described the meeting between Mr Kenny and Ms Merkel as a "photo opportunity to make himself look prime ministerial".

"We all would have had opportunities to go abroad," he said. "That is not where the election is...it is about meeting the Irish people and listening to the views of the Irish people," he said.

Mr Martin and Labour's Eamon Gilmore were this afternoon preparing for RTE's first leaders' debate, to be chaired by Pat Kenny tonight.

hnews@herald.ie

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