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Why Enda Kenny's lack of respect to Arlene Foster over all-Ireland talks on borders is contemptible

We have had enough arrogance from Dublin politicians to last us all summer, writes Nelson McCausland

Published 21/07/2016

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
First Minister Arlene Foster

The summer months are often described as the silly season, because some newspapers print a variety of frivolous stories and because there is less serious - and especially political - news around. However, this year there has been no lack of hard news, with the murderous activities of terrorists, racial divisions in America and an attempted coup in Turkey.

Meanwhile, the farce that is the Labour Party is the story that rumbles on, and in the Republic the Taoiseach and the leader of the opposition have also had their share of column inches.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny grabbed a headline or two with his public call for a cross-border forum on the implications of Brexit. He probably called it an all-Ireland forum, but the term ‘cross-border’ is a better reflection of the reality.

In an act of monumental arrogance, Kenny announced his proposal without even speaking to the DUP First Minister of Northern Ireland.

If he wanted to propose a cross-border forum, he might have at least spoken to the First Minister of the country on the other side of the border, but such was his arrogance he didn’t see the need to do that.

In the Dail, Labour leader Brendan Howlin said that Kenny’s approach had “damaged” the authority of his office, and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said he found it incredible that the forum was proposed without consultations with Stormont. Both of those observations were correct.

Nevertheless, Gerry Adams backed Kenny and said that he had already proposed such a forum. In typical Adams-esque fashion, Gerry explained: “There is actually an opportunity to redesign the future of the island of Ireland and of the EU.”

However, Kenny had already been slapped down by DUP First Minister Arlene Foster. She did it calmly and politely, but she did slap him down — and he was well and truly humiliated.

Her priority is to work with the United Kingdom Government to ensure that, when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, we get the best possible deal for Northern Ireland.

Kenny seemed to back off, but not Gerry Adams, who said that a DUP rejection “should not be allowed to stand in the way of such a body”. He added that, if elected politicians did not attend, “civic unionism” would attend. I suspect that by civic unionism he meant the unelected — and unelectable.

Enda Kenny is under pressure from within his own party and has been “rattled and shaken” by criticism from Fine Gael TDs and senators who are anxious for him to go. However, that does not excuse his botched solo run and his complete lack of respect for the leader of the largest party in Northern Ireland.

That same arrogance and disrespect manifested themselves again this week at the prestigious MacGill Summer School at Glenties in Co Donegal.

On Sunday evening, the Fianna Fail leader, Micheal Martin, said he hoped the UK’s referendum decision to leave the EU would encourage support for a united Ireland.

He also said that a border poll should be called in Northern Ireland, if there was evidence of sufficient support for it.

Then, on Monday, Enda Kenny spoke at Glenties and said Brexit talks should take into account the possibility of a future poll on a united Ireland. Newspaper headlines took it a stage further with headlines such as “Get ready for united Ireland poll”.

However, the power to call a border poll lies with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, and he brought some sanity to the situation by dismissing the idea outright.

Even Micheal Martin has since rowed back and said that a border poll would not be helpful.

This was Kenny’s second humiliation in recent weeks, so perhaps it is time for Enda to pack his suitcase, head off for his summer break and contemplate his pending retirement.

We have had enough arrogance and disrespect from Eire politicians for one summer.

Belfast Telegraph

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