Miriam Lord’s Week: Controversial ‘Sam’ Bill just the ticket for Taoiseach

Sat, Jul 6, 2013, 01:00

Enda Kenny dreams of being a Mayo Taoiseach in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day when his county collects the Sam Maguire after a wait of over 60 years.

He has spoken about this many times, even vowing to introduce legislation to make it happen. He might yet achieve his wish. The legislation is ready and waiting.

Brian Hunt, former legal adviser to Fine Gael and now with the Zurich Insurance Group, drafted a Private Members’ Bill to legislate for a Mayo triumph this year, should the Taoiseach so desire.

Hunt, who has been on secondment to the Department of the Taoiseach for the duration of Ireland’s European presidency, prepared the Sam Maguire Cup (Seisin Reassignment) Bill 2013 as a parting gift for Enda.

It provides “for the reassignment of the Sam Maguire Cup to Mayo senior football team in the event that such reassignment proves necessary, to provide for the rectification and correction of official match records to reflect the reassignment effected pursuant to this Bill, to provide for inter-county transfer of bonfire materials and to provide for appropriate arrangements for the recuperation and nourishment of the Mayo senior football team and to provide for related matters”.

‘Victorious’
Under the Act, “victorious” means “a victory which has been secured through play or has been secured on foot of an order under section 3 of this Act”.

Under subsection 1, and depending on the half-time score, the Taoiseach shall “convene an incorporeal Cabinet meeting by telephone for the purpose of discussing the proposal to make an order”.

Said order may be made by the Taoiseach after the final whistle.Once the order has been handed to the president of the GAA, the Croke Park scoreboard shall be adjusted to record that Mayo beat their opponents by a generous margin.

A period of recuperation and hospitality shall be funded “by the boundless generosity of the Kerry County Board”.

The act provides for the establishment of “The Intercounty Collection of Combustible Materials Authority” which will have responsibility for bonfires and homecoming celebrations.

We understand the Taoiseach is preparing to rush the Bill through the Dáil.

Lucinda Creighton, from Claremorris, will not oppose the measure while Pat Rabbitte, also from Claremorris, has promised to deliver Labour support.

However, as Enda is not allowing a free vote, there are fears that Fine Gael may lose a number of high profile names. Minister Jimmy Deenihan – a much decorated Kerry footballer – is almost certain to walk, as is the former Louth manager, Peter Fitzpatrick.

“This will lead to the floodgates opening” said deputy Joe McHugh on behalf of the reigning champions, Donegal. “It’ll be London next. And then Leitrim.”

Special branch for Somme man

A fine sycamore towers in the front garden of a small house in the Donegal village of Gortahork.

People can’t remember a time when it wasn’t there.

Before he travelled to France last weekend for the Battle of the Somme commemorations, Minister for the Gaeltacht Dinny McGinley heard the poignant story of this stately tree. Dinny was visiting his old friend Paddy McGowan (right), who told him about his uncle who left Gortahork in 1914 to join the British army. On the morning before he departed, 18-year-old John McGowan planted a sycamore sapling as a reminder to his family to keep him in their thoughts.

The young Donegal man was first sent to the Dardanelles, where he sustained a hand injury. After recuperating, he was transferred to the Somme, never to return home.

But the tree he planted now soars above the garden, 99 years after he planted it.

When Dinny told Paddy he would be representing the Government at the commemorations, his friend asked him to try and locate Uncle John’s final resting place. “Will you take a branch of the tree with you, and if you find him will you place it on his grave?”

Dinny was happy to oblige. Which is how it came to pass that the Minister of State travelled to France accompanied by the special branch.

Last Sunday, in the company of Niall Leinster of the Somme Association, Dinny travelled north to Étaples Military Cemetery in Pas de Calais. There, after a little searching, they found the grave of “5169 Private J McGowan, Royal Munster Fusilier”. He died on August 2nd, 1916. Dinny described the emotional moment when he stood at the headstone.

“I said: ‘Hello John, I bring you greetings from your nephew Paddy, who is now 90 years of age. Even though he never knew you, he has fond memories of you through all the stories he heard down through the years. They never forgot you. Paddy told me to be sure and tell you that the tree you planted the morning before you left is in full bloom and covers more than half the garden. It’s one of the finest trees in all of Gortahork and the surrounding area. And I’m falling down on my two knees now and bringing you a branch of your own sycamore tree’.”

Then Dinny said a silent prayer and laid it by the headstone – John McGowan’s final bough. And he left the grave of Paddy’s uncle from Gortahork with these parting words: “Codladh sámh i measc na laoch go raibh agat a John.” (Sleep peacefully among the warriors, John)

Lucinda’s cloud may be someone else’s silver lining by the time next week is out

Politics is a heartless business.

Most observers are predicting that Lucinda Creighton will be expelled from the Fine Gael parliamentary party next week when she votes against the abortion Bill. It is considered unlikely she will be appeased by any “tweaking” of the legislation before it reaches the Dáil again.

The word from the Creighton camp is that she is “preparing” to oppose the Bill, which is not the same as a definite confirmation.

But it’s enough to ratchet up the speculation in Leinster House about who might get her job.

A Minister of State’s cloud is viewed as somebody else’s silver lining, and early in the week, two names were already being bandied about as possible replacements.

Both men are loyal supporters of the Taoiseach and enthusiastic purveyors of the Fine Gael message on the airwaves.

Paschal Donohoe of Dublin Central, who never seems to tire of getting pushed out to defend his political bosses no matter what the issue, is the early frontrunner. Jerry Buttimer of Cork South Central has won plaudits for his efficient and even-handed chairing of the Health Committee hearings and is also coming in for mention.

Should Minister of State for European Affairs Creighton find herself unable to live with the abortion legislation, her decision may influence waverers in Fine Gael. But the word in the party is that if anyone jumps, the most likely candidate is Kilkenny deputy John Paul Phelan, who is close to Creighton and her husband, Senator Paul Bradford.

This is all a bit premature though.

A week is a long time, and all that . . .

Kenny on Kerry jaunt as Seanad faces kingdom come

The Taoiseach is doing the Ring of Kerry charity cycle for the fourth year in a row today with Cabinet Ministers Jimmy Deenihan and Leo Varadkar gearing up alongside him.

Deenihan will leave them for dead by Moll’s Gap and the Taoiseach should put in his usual creditable performance, while young Leo is expected to do very well once he has the stabilisers removed.

Oh, but it’s well for them, having a nice summertime spin around the Kingdom when the future of the Seanad hangs in the balance.

Yesterday, Senators passed the second stage of the Seanad abolition referendum Bill, but the result didn’t reflect the majority view that the second house should be retained.

Fianna Fáil’s Denis O’Donovan was moved to quote Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard during his contribution “such is the sense of forboding I have this evening when speaking on this issue”.

There was a hush in the chamber.

“The curfew toll the knell of parting day,

The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea.

The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,

And leaves the world to darkness and to me . . .”

Denis paused.

“It will be a very dark place once this Seanad is abolished.”

You wouldn’t get that in the other place, where the TDs “feed into people’s perception of the Dáil as a hurdy-gurdy dysfunctional Punch and Judy show”, said Fine Gael’s Paul Coghlan.

When the time came to vote on the accursed Bill, the electronic voting system broke down. “The screen flashed and we were all pressing the buttons like mad and then “nought nought” came up and that was the end of it,” recalls one Senator. “It was like a sign.”

Absolutely nothing to do with biscuits

Cavan TD Joe O’Reilly hobbled into Leinster House on crutches this week, nursing a leg injury from a dunking accident.

That’s right, a dunking related mishap. Absolutely nothing to do with biscuits.

Joe, who has an adventurous streak (he got lost while conquering Croagh Patrick last year) volunteered to sit in the modern equivalent of a ducking stool at last weekend’s Midsummer Festival in Bailieborough. People were to chuck balls at a target, to tip Joe into the water.

So there he was, 30 feet above the “dunk tank” in his little polka-dot Speedos, waiting to take a dive. It didn’t take long for a local hotshot to hit the target and he took the plunge.

He hit his knee off the bottom of the pool. By evening, it was “up like a balloon”.

Still, the deputy – who strenuously denies the allegation of polka-dot Speedos – helped raise funds for the local scouts.