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Who is Ursula von der Leyen?

Despite the power that she wields on behalf of Irish people across the world it would be interesting to see how you get on in the following multiple choice questions.

Question 1.

UVDL has (a) no kids (b) 3 kids (c) 7 kids (d) none of the above.

Question 2.

UVDL is (a) an architect (b) an engineer (c) a medical doctor (d) a retired army general.

Question 3

She is a former (a) Supreme Court Judge (b) Trade Commissioner (c) Minister for Defence (d) Minister for Agriculture.

Question 4

She attended the same school as (a) Angela Merkel (b) Emmanuel Macron (c) Boris Johnson (d) Kim Jong Un.

Question 5

She was elected President of the Commission by the European Parliament by (a) unanimous vote (b) 109 votes (c) 9 votes (d) acclaim.

If you got all of these questions right you should probably consider taking up a hobby.

The sharp-eyed euro-nerds will have noticed that c is the correct answer in each case. Well done.

Born Ursula Gertrud Albrecht in 1958, she grew up in Ixelles, a suburb located towards the south of Brussels. Her family name of Albrecht is originally from northern Germany, whose members have been prominent civil servants, politicians and businesspeople down throughout the centuries.

She studied economics at London’s LSE. During the time, she went by the name Rose Ladson to protect herself as German politicians were actively being targeted by Red Army Faction leftist militants. She picked Rose because her family nicknamed her “little rose”.

She has a love for London and told The Times, “London was for me, then, the epitome of modernity: freedom, the joy of life, trying everything”. She had an affinity for punk and rock concerts, and going out partying, noting that she spent “significantly more time in the bars of Soho and in record stores in Camden than in the library”.

After moving to California in 1992, where her husband carried out medical research at Stanford, she was reportedly taken aback by the active role American fathers played in raising their children.

When the growing family returned to Germany four years later, von der Leyen made a move into politics, like her father. During her time as a federal minister for family affairs from 2005, she implemented what she called “conservative feminism” by introducing several reforms, including “maternity leave” as “parental leave”.

She was Minister of Defence (2013 – 2019) in Germany, the first woman to hold this position. The role is something akin to being Minister for Health in Ireland, being considered a poisoned chalice or ‘Angola’ as Brian Cowen put it.

Since becoming President of the European Commission she has overseen the enormous task of delivering on the EU Green Deal and making the EU a global leader in the fight to tackle climate change. She has also steered the EU vaccine programme despite a very turbulent start.

The challenge for the balance of her time as President of the European Commission will be to ensure that the new laws required to deliver the Green Deal get through the Parliament and the Council.

Her visit to Ireland last week was uneventful and part of a commitment to visit every EU member state to discuss pandemic recovery. Avoiding any further Article 16-style near-misses on Northern Ireland will help to keep the Brexit dogs in the UK media at bay.

With that, may I wish you all a pleasant summer break and look forward to resuming my column in September.

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