Thursday, July 2, 2009

No private jets for David Miliband!

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband put the Irish Cabinet to shame this week - by flying into Dublin for a formal meeting with his Irish counterpart on a scheduled commercial flight.

Miliband, tipped to succeed Gordon Brown as leader of the British Labour Party, was in Dublin on Wednesday for meetings with his Irish counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin.

But instead of flying over on a private, military or Government jet, Miliband joined the general commuters on a scheduled BMI flight from London.

This isn’t the first time that a British politician has ignored the trappings of power by using commercial airlines to fly.

In 2006, former Prime Minister Tony Blair used a Ryanair flight to travel on holidays to Italy with his family.

Meanwhile, a mix up on board the flight to Dublin yesterday resulted in David Miliband arriving into Leinster House wearing a complete stranger’s jacket!

“There aren’t many British Foreign Secretaries that have come to this House (Leinster House_ and say they want to say very clearly and loudly through the Irish press – Thank you Mr Collins,” Mr Miliband said.

“I need to say ‘thank you Mr Collins’ because as I got off the BMI flight, I got off with someone’s jacket and someone else had my jacket. So I arrived at this building (Leinster House) earlier today with a jacket that didn’t match my trousers,” he added.

“During the meetings I was having, my own jacket was returned. The amusing thing was when I reached into the jacket that I’d been given and pulled out the ticket, it was in the name of a Mr Collins.”

“So it was a rather amusing post-script,” Miliband said.

He had a series of meetings with Minister Martin, the Foreign Affairs Committee and opposition party leaders.

While a wide range of issues were discussed, the forthcoming Lisbon 2 referendum was the main topic of discussion.

“The eyes of Europe will be on Ireland in October. The Lisbon Treaty is good for Europe and you will have to decide if it is good for Ireland.”

He said if the Irish electorate reject Lisbon for a second time, the entire European political system reverts back to the Nice Treaty – which means that the number of Commissioners would be reduced.

With Lisbon, he said, Ireland would be guaranteed a Commissioner. Without Lisbon, there is no such guarantee.

“If we do not have the Lisbon Treaty, we will return to the institutional wrangling which has been the enemy of European progress over the last number of years,” he said.

When asked if, in the future, his next meeting with Micheal Martin would be as heads of state of their respective countries, both Mr Miliband and Minister Martin laughed.

“I have great admiration for Micheal Martin. But if you start thinking of other people’s jobs, you are not focusing on your own job,” he said.

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