MIRIAM LORD'S WEEK

 

Paul Gogarty's politics; leaving the Green Party; Brian Cowen's decisions; Royston Brady and Ahern documentary; Micheál Martin at Mass; backing Obama; Avril on Eamon; the Democrat fundraiser; Oireachtas golf society outing; talking politics; Dinny and the economy

DEPUTY PAUL No-Go Gogarty's approach to politics is unconventional at the best of times, but he surpassed himself recently by rolling around the floor and playing dead while a political rival was making a speech.

No-Go Gogo is the Green Party education spokesman who railed against funding cuts in an open letter to Minister Batt O'Keeffe. It read like a long resignation note - until he reached the part stressing he is staying with his coalition partners in the Government.

The night after Paul's Dáil Epistle to the Parliamentarians, he was in his Dublin Mid-West Constituency, attending a public meeting in Rathcoole Community Hall against a proposed incinerator in the area.

The hall was packed, and local politicians Joanna Tuffy TD of Labour and Senator Frances Fitzgerald of Fine Gael were also present. Following a number of lengthy contributions from technical experts, Sen Fitzgerald approached the microphone and made a number of points, many questioning Minister for the Environment John Gormley's views on incineration and the Green Party's bona fides in opposing the Rathcoole project.

As she spoke, Gogo suddenly jumped to his feet and collapsed on the ground, flailing his arms and rolling about before lying still for a few minutes. Then he picked himself up and sat back down.

Frances carried on.

"I got a dreadful fright at first. I thought Paul was having a fit. One minute he was in the front row, the next, he was rolling around the floor. I couldn't believe it. Then I realised he was play-acting," says Sen Fitzgerald.

"In all my years in public life, I've never witnessed anything like it."

Joanna Tuffy was also a little taken aback by her constituency colleague's reaction to Frances's speech. "I thought he meant to jump up and say something and had accidentally fallen," she recalls. "But that's Paul. He has no inhibitions."

As for NoGo Gogo, he claims Sen Fitzgerald has been playing politics with the issue of the Rathcoole incinerator and is using it to make allegations and score points against the Greens.

He says Sen Fitzgerald suggested at earlier meetings that Mr Gormley is in favour of moving the Ringsend incinerator from his constituency to Rathcoole.

"When Frances started the same old scaremongering rant, I took offence. I just kinda fell on the floor in absolute puzzlement. She always induces that sort of reaction in me. Hypocrisy and false indignation reverberating from a persona has a damaging effect on my psyche." Indeed.

While Sen Fitzgerald was speaking, Paul decided there was no point in trying to argue with her. He decided to adopt a different approach: "I thought I'd have a staged reaction." Has he tried playing dead before? "No. It's the first time, actually, but I can't guarantee it won't happen again if I have to listen to Frances. It's a bit like a nervous tic now."

Almost, but not quite

Meanwhile, Gogo was in the news again this week after telling a local newspaper that leaving the Green Party had crossed his mind. This led to the headline in yesterday's Evening Herald - "I Nearly Quit Greens to Become Independent." Gogarty, who says he didn't speak to the newspaper, has an explanation.

"If somebody asks: 'Did you ever consider resigning?' the question will cross your mind. It has crossed my mind. But I have never threatened to resign.

"Put it this way. If somebody asked me to cook a kitten in a microwave, the thought would cross my mind. But I'm an animal-loving vegetarian, so I wouldn't do it."

All in the timing

It was a big day for Carlow on Monday, when the Taoiseach arrived with great fanfare to mark the construction phase of a major new vaccine manufacturing plant in the town.

He couldn't speak highly enough of pharmaceutical giant Merck Sharp Dohme for choosing to make such a big investment in Ireland. In these times of economic slowdown, Biffo noted approvingly that 300 jobs will be created during the construction of the project, with 170 "high quality" jobs to follow.

"The Government has had to take some difficult decisions recently, and it has done so because it believes in the resilience of the Irish economy," Taoiseach Cowen told his audience of senior executives from the company, business luminaries from the region and a jostling array of politicians.

"Investments such as this today are a source of this confidence, and the Government will do all it can to encourage and support businesses such as yours who chose to establish and expand within the Irish economy."

It was all sweetness and light between Cowen and the job-creating industrialists. So why spoil the happy day by breaking news of the very latest "difficult decisions" to his hosts? One suspects it wouldn't have gone down well, given their line of business.

So he buttered them up instead. "The Government values the relationship we have built up with you over that time and we are determined to foster and develop it over the years to come," a delighted Biffo cooed.

Willie Deese of MSD beamed in return: "Our Carlow plant represents the future for Merck Sharp Dohme and for public health around the globe. The vaccines and other products we will manufacture in Carlow could ultimately be used by millions of people, which is a very exciting prospect." Chief among those products will be Gardasil, a cervical cancer vaccine.

On Tuesday, the day after the Taoiseach's visit to Carlow, Minister for Health Mary Harney announced the scrapping of the national cervical cancer vaccination programme.

After the post-Budget shambles, it's good to see that the Taoiseach has rediscovered his sense of timing.

A family affair

There's young Royston Brady - long time no see - on the TV again, popping up on the Bertie Ahern documentary on Monday night to tell us about the joys of being elevated to the position of ward boss in Bertie's rather scary Drumcondra mafia.

He hasn't been seen much since falling out with the family over his ill-fated European election campaign back in 2004, but has been disrespecting Bertie's organisation in his few public appearances since then.

Royston, who is now general manager of the Roganstown golf hotel and country club in North Co Dublin, was in the crowd at the US ambassador's presidential election bash in the Guinness Storehouse on Tuesday night.

The former lord mayor of Dublin and Bertie protege enjoyed the night with his brothers Fulton and Simon, but big brother Cyprian didn't join them. Cyprian, who scraped into the Dáil at the last election, was at the party but he steered clear of Royston. Sadly, the two haven't been on speaking terms since Royston parted company with the Ahern camp in the acrimonious aftermath of his failed Euro election bid.

On Tuesday night, quite a few people noticed how Cyp entered the main room at one stage, only to leave when he clapped eyes on his younger brother.

"He came in and then he took off," shrugged Royston. "It's a terrible pity."

Given that he has more to say about Bertie in coming episodes of the documentary, perhaps now is not the time for the two to patch up their differences.

Happily for Royston, he has more than enough on his plate at the moment. In the early hours of yesterday morning, his wife Michelle gave birth to their second child in the Rotunda Hospital. Pia Elizabeth is a new sister for Ethan (2), and mother and baby are doing very well.

Michelle had already had a number of false alarms, so the couple left it a little late to leave for the hospital. As Royston booted along in the car, he was stopped by three female traffic corps officers on Dublin's Malahide Road.

"I didn't have to say much, they took one look at Michelle and escorted us to the Rotunda. Fair play to the girls, they were brilliant. We got there just in time."

Cabinet altarboy

The Cabinet was out in force at Tuesday's knees-up in the Storehouse. A disappointed Batt O'Keeffe said he was a McCain man. Mary Hanafin reiterated support for Obama by wearing an "I was there" lapel pin, from her trip to the Democratic Convention in Denver.

Minister and Cabinet altarboy Micheál Martin reprimanded them for not publicly maintaining impartiality. They rightly ignored him. Micheál is quietly going about his business while much of the Cabinet is getting flogged over the Budget. He has been conspicuous by his absence from the airwaves - but not invisible.

He appeared last Sunday on RTÉ television. Not, as one might expect, on The Week in Politics, but much earlier in the day, reading the lesson, in Irish, during Mass from St Patrick's Church in Rochestown in Cork.

Punter politicians

We're sure that Green Minister Eamon Ryan is not a vegetarian, but that didn't stop strangers buttonholing him on Tuesday night and reprimanding him for daring to eat a hot dog. In the end, he had to bin it.

Still, it wasn't all bad for Eamon, who further disproves the theory that Greens have to be either mad and/or puritans.

Thanks to Obama's victory, he took €800 off the bookies, having placed €100 on him on odds of 8/1 back in October.

Fine Gael's Leo Varadkar - a McCain man - also did well, but could have done better. Having bet on McCain before he even got the nomination, he saw the writing on the wall early, and put some cash on an Obama landslide.

When the next US president carried Florida, Ohio and Virginia, Leo came out €350 to the good, despite his initial outlay on the Republican candidate.

Missouri - which should have been a banker - let him down. Missourians have voted for every president of the USA since 1904, barring the 1956 election.

As we go to press, Missouri remains undecided, but seems likely to go to McCain. Had this so-called bellwether state followed tradition, Leo would have pocketed a grand.

Another Greenback

By the way, Mr Ryan is related to Fine Gael MEP Avril Doyle.

"My mother was a Ryan," Avril tells us.

The formidable Avril says Eamon isn't the only one in the family with Green credentials. "He's the new kid on the block - I was a junior minister in the Department of the Environment in the early '80s."

She is also part of an EU group working on the reform of the trading emissions system, but says it's very hard to whip up any sort of interest in the subject in Ireland.

Perhaps she should have a word with her distant cousin. They might find they have that in common as well.

Considerable clout

American lawyer Brian O'Dwyer, New York based Democrat supporter and fundraiser, is in Dublin this weekend leading a delegation of 18 businessmen on a fact-finding trip.

They hope to meet with several Ministers and discuss future business prospects between the two countries.

Brian is a son of the late Paul O'Dwyer, the Bohola-born businessman who was a major player among Irish-American Democrats. He was heavily involved in the Hillary Clinton campaign in New York, but when that foundered, he threw his considerable clout behind Obama.

Alongside Caroline Kennedy, O'Dwyer's name has been mentioned in dispatches for the soon-to-be-vacant job of US ambassador to Ireland.

40 years a-waiting

The Oireachtas Golf Society held its Christmas hamper outing on Tuesday morning at St Anne's in Dublin. Thirty-two members teed off, and former deputy Paudge Connolly from Monaghan won first prize. Second prize also went to a former member, retired TD Tom Enright - father of FG deputy Olywn - who was ecstatic at his success. It took him nearly 40 years as a member to win something, and he was celebrating with his daughter and friends in the Dáil bar on Tuesday.

Society secretary Donie Cassidy made sure everything ran smoothly, while captain John Dennehy enjoyed one of his last outings before handing over to his successor, Sen Feargal Quinn.

In a seldom-is-wonderful moment, Oireachtas staffers Cait Hayes and Barbara Murphy added a rare feminine presence to the usually totally male make-up of the outings. The lovely St Anne's links course proved a fitting venue for a gathering of politicians, situated as it is on the aptly named Bull Island.

Worrying the sheep

In Ireland, people will talk politics any time and anywhere. Take Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and his party and constituency colleague, Michael Ring.

The two men were at a wake in their Mayo constituency recently. The deceased had had a good innings, and the wake was a happy and nostalgic affair.

One of the grieving guests told Ring, the Mouth of Mayo, that his shouting in the Dáil was having a bad effect on his sheep.

"I was above in the yard, trying to get them into a pen and the radio was on," he began. " 'Get in, get in, get in!' I was roaring at d'aul sheep. And you, ya blackguard, were roaring out of the radio from up in the Dáil, shoutin 'Get them out, get them out, get them out!' The poor aul dog didn't know what to do and the sheep are still lookin at me."

No understatement

Dinny McGinley should get a bit more excited about the state of the economy. Understatement gets a man nowhere in politics.

The Fine Gael deputy for Donegal South-West sent out a press release yesterday about unemployment in his county. "Unemployment in Donegal goes Stratospheric" is the heading.

The "unprecedented" figures for the county have "rocketed", leaving a "sad, devastating and tragic" record for the Government. Employment has gone into a "tailspin" in this "deep crisis." The economy is in a stratospheric, astronomical, rocketing tailspin? That doesn't sound good, Dinny. But try and be a bit more expressive next time.