Christmas cheer didn't last for FG

Sat, Dec 15, 2012, 00:00

Fine Gael held Christmas drinks for the media on Tuesday. All very low key and paid for out of party coffers, people were at pains to point out. Festive cheer is in short supply around Leinster House at the moment, for obvious reasons. Even the various trees about the place are scantily dressed.

As for Christmas cards, there aren’t any. Senator John Whelan says the straw that broke the camel’s back for him was when he saw Seanad colleagues last year, sitting in their seats and addressing piles of free cards, then handing them to the people sitting around them.

But back to Fine Gael’s little soirée. (Fianna Fail is having one next week. Nothing, as usual, planned by Labour. No word from Sinn Féin. )

It was a case of peace and goodwill to all , with even Phil Hogan extending his compliments to the ladies and gentlemen of the press, although his welcome for the Daily Mail was somewhat frosty, following its coverage of his recent trip to Doha.

We hear Minister for Health James Reilly popped in for a little while, radiating bonhomie despite his ongoing mauling at the hands of the media guttersnipes. They must have been under orders.

Enda Kenny (above) circulated for a while, his usual affable self, but this outbreak of cordiality didn’t last long. By yesterday, journalists in Brussels were not happy to discover that he would not be holding the customary EU post-summit press conference.

Instead, his handlers opted for a “doorstep” interview. These on-the-hoof events make it far easier for advisers to end the interaction by simply stepping between their boss and the journalists, before marching him away. When Enda arrived, he was told in no uncertain terms that this was no way to conduct business.

“This is probably the first time that a Taoiseach, post-summit, hasn’t done a sit-down briefing and press conference with us,” he was informed by a veteran Brussels correspondent, “and we think it sets a very poor precedent, especially before an Irish presidency.”

The Taoiseach was most taken about. ‘“Well, you can ask any question you like,” he said. “I, I didn’t know that . . .”

In the event, his minders stayed their distance for the 20-minute doorstep interview, which would have been far more comfortable for all concerned had it taken place in the usual fashion.

It doesn’t augur well for relations in the new year.