Kenny shines despite the rain on Gulf visitWednesday 08 January 2014 07.05
Just in case anyone was getting homesick, the over 100 member Irish delegation on a trade and investment mission to the Gulf, comprising company executives for the most part, were greeted with an extremely rare torrential down pour of rain on the second night of the visit, writes Rónán Ó Domhnaill from Riyadh.
Many of the delegates who attended an outdoor business reception in the Irish embassy yesterday evening returned to the hotel soaked through.
Whether dealing with Saudis or Irish here, Taoiseach Enda Kenny seems comfortable.
“He’s like a chat show host” remarked one of my colleagues as Mr Kenny chaired a discussion at Irish Saudi project management company Absal Paul. The company said it had secured an estimated €100m in contracts and the Taoiseach delighted in inviting both Irish and Saudi executives in the company to share their experiences of working together.
The Taoiseach began this trip on Sunday morning by addressing the 109 delegates.
He told them that is was his conviction that business could be done between the two countries.
He had a hectic schedule going from meeting to meeting. First with business people, then on to the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education. About 2,700 third level students in Ireland come from Saudi Arabia.
There was another reminder of home perhaps after that when the Taoiseach met the head of SAMA; but the shorthand version of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency is the only similarity with our own NAMA - the 12 Saudi Arabian banks under SAMA are cash rich, we were told.
One aspect of life in Saudi Arabia which certainly took me by surprise was the “erratic” driving.
Cars decide to turn left or right often at the very last minute; indicators seem optional; the beeping of car horns can be heard throughout Riyadh from morning to night.
The Irish Government allowed us journalists to travel in their convoy for much of the visit. This enabled us to be in situ for as many of the Taoiseach's engagements as possible.
As we weaved and jigged through Riyadh traffic, following police outriders travelling at a ferocious rate, I emerged more often than not white-faced and shaken. The Taoiseach, for his part, seemed fine.