Michael Noonan's Bilderberg trip and its infamous veil of secrecy

Our Minister for Finance is off to Dresden with Michael O’Leary... but that’s about all you’ll get out of him

While the five-star Hotel Taschenbergpalais in Dresden prides itself on being a pet-friendly establishment, its policy on welcoming six-foot lizards is not known.

The reptilian shape-shifting certain conspiracy theorists will be expecting to be going on in the German city over the next four days is more than a little far-fetched, but then the Bilderberg conference's shadowy stance is nothing if not fuel for the imagination.

First held in the titular Netherlands hotel in 1954, ostensibly to foster better relations between Europe and North America, Bilderberg has been an annual, travelling summer affair in the six decades since.

The fact that it brings together (on invitation only) some of the most powerful political and financial leaders on the planet for a spot of behind-closed-doors hobnobbing and potential global policy discussion has been raising concerns since it properly entered the public consciousness around the turn of the century.

No reporters are allowed, no minutes are taken, no votes are cast and no report is written up for public distribution when all is said and done.

It is, quite simply, the elite of the elite whispering amongst themselves. Most certainly about matters that concern us all.

Bilderberg 2016 kicks off today and runs until Sunday June 12th behind a barrier of some 400 police officers and a ring of concrete blocks.

"Representing" the Irish this time around are two returning Bilderbergers – our Minister for Finance Michael Noonan previously attended the 2012 edition, whilst Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary visited the Austrian market town of Telfs for Bilderberg just last year.

The pair will be agreeing to the Chatham House Rule, which states that:

"Participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s) nor of any other participant may be revealed.

"Thanks to the private nature of the conference, the participants are not bound by the conventions of their office or by pre-agreed positions. As such, they can take time to listen, reflect and gather insights."

Yes, even the Wolf of Mullingar will be keeping shtum. But that's neither here nor there when, apparently until Sunday, Minister Noonan is no longer "bound by the conventions of [his] office".

Some 124 other captains of industries and key policymakers will be in attendance, including the IMF's Christine Lagarde, Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan and veteran Bilderberger and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the 93-year-old behind such endearing quotes as "the illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer."

Topics for discussion on this go-round are thought to include Brexit, Donald Trump and the migrant crisis.

In terms of the Irish presence at these meetings of the powerful, we haven't always had a huge look-in, but a few notable names have RSVP'd in the past.

As far back as the '80s, the late Garret FitzGerald was an enthusiastic Bilderberger whilst serving as Taoiseach.

Since then, several other former Attorney Generals have been invited to the gathering: Paul Gallagher, who attended twice and was also in attendance when the Irish government agreed on the bank guarantee; Peter Sutherland, who retired as chairman of Goldman Sachs International last year and is now a UN Special Representative for International Migration; and former Tánaiste Michael McDowell.

A decade ago, it was Denis O'Brien and not Michael O'Leary in attendance and flying the flag for Irish entrepreneurs.

In 2014 meanwhile, Simon Coveney was invited as Ireland's then-Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Coveney became Minister for Defence that July, and is currently the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government.

In the past, the seemingly premature invitations extended towards both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair have raised eyebrows.

Bill Clinton attended the 1991 meeting, whilst he was the Governor of Arkansas. He was elected as US President the following year.

Tony Blair attended Bilderberg in 1993, four years before he became UK Prime Minister.

Conference organisers have dismissed the theory that people are being handpicked for top positions. Instead, they say, they merely have excellent talent spotters.