Fifteen uses for an abolished Seanad

This week Miriam Lord looks at Enda’s breakfast and Cong’s new quiet man

Sat, Oct 5, 2013, 08:57

So will it be Yes for the heave-ho or a No for the status quo? We’ll know that answer later today.

However, in the event of abolition, there’s the small matter of the Seanad chamber to consider. This beautifully lit space used to be the ballroom in Leinster House. With its gilded barrel ceiling and sparkling chandeliers, the room is much more grand than the dull Dáil chamber and perfect for giving people notions about themselves.

Here are some possible uses:

A cinema/theatre
This resource would provide a much-needed outlet for politicians to indulge their flair for amateur dramatics. Here, they could hone their acting skills, pick up tips on presentation and motivation, keep the Dáil canteen forever in ham and save on fees to Terry Prone.

Place of self-worship
Opened in homage to its former residents – the Senators – it would give TDs a chance to value themselves in wonderful surroundings while contemplating the political hereafter and how they might hold on to their seats.

Hall of Mirrors
See above.

A Star Chamber
They would if they could.

Relocate the Dáil Bar
What a wonderful room. The authorities could put a roundy bar in the middle and keep the blue leather chairs with the harp embossed on them.

Mine host Terry Leyden behind the bar, dispensing gin and guff. Pictures of great Irish parliamentarians lining the walls, and Senators too. They could use it for entertaining foreign dignatories. Saves shuttling them up to Guinnesses to coo over a pint or over to Dalkey to commune with Bono.

A panic room
For when the demonstrators finally burst through the barriers on Kildare Street and storm down the plinth.

Ye Olde New Seanad
Sweetie Shoppe

Leinster House isn’t the same since the little shop inside the main gates closed for business earlier this year. The existing line of souvenir knick-knacks could be expanded to take account of the larger sales area and increased tourist footfall brought in by the new attraction.

A creche
No need. Not with the Seanad gone.

Nursing home
Surplus to requirements. See above.

A television room
We hear a group of cross-party Senators made quite a racket in the Members’ Bar on Wednesday night when Vincent Browne had his TV3 referendum debate. Richard Bruton and Mary Lou McDonald (best performance of the night) advocated abolition and Michael McDowell and Micheál Martin argued for the retention of the Seanad. “The roars of ‘Go on Micheál! Go on Micheál!’ had the rest of us nearly deafened. I had to go home” said one deputy afterwards.

Venue for afternoon tea dances/bingo
Michael Noonan would make a wonderful bingo caller.

Urban beach
If nothing else, it would be a novelty for deputies from the midlands.

Breakout Room for the The Others/The Exiles/The Unwhipped
With so many sailors going overboard from the Coalition parties, they need a place to relax and unwind.

Broadcasting suite
Joe Duffy could host Funny Friday from the defunct Seanad chamber. Mind you, he could do the same from the Dáil chamber. That’s a wasteland on Fridays too – even when there’s a sitting.

A fine exhibition space There’s a large ante-chamber leading into the ornate ballroom and more offices behind. If the powers that be got their act together, Leinster House – with the National and Natural History Museums and the National Library – could make The Kildare Street Quarter a nice tourist attraction.

And a rejuvenated Seanad chamber could be its nod to the Titanic.

We’ll see.

Enda’s breakfast chums give Lucinda food for thought

Slightly perturbing to see the Taoiseach noshing down in a cafe in south Dublin on Thursday morning when the establishment he has chosen, Hobarts in Ranelagh, proclaims itself “the home of the hangover cure”.

But it was even more intriguing to see his two companions.

Ranelagh, of course, is in the heartland of Lucinda Creighton’s Dublin South-East constituency (soon to become part of Dublin Bay South). And Enda was very publicly meeting two young Fine Gaelers who are nursing political ambitions in her backyard.

A signal the FG hierarchy isn’t minded to welcome the prodigal Lucinda – now residing among the Dáil’s Independents – back to the party fold before the next general election.

Enda was in the area to do some referendum campaigning, but he seemed particularly keen to be photographed with Rathgar pharmacist Kate O’Connell and doctor Paddy Smyth, both of whom are standing in the local elections.

He was sending out a more long-term message – that Fine Gael is looking at these two local election hopefuls – and O’Connell in particular – as general election candidates.

Local TD Eoghan Murphy completed the group. He looked a happy man.

Ring road to Cong as statue recalls Wayne’s world

Imagine you have a brand new statue called The Quiet Man and you need somebody suitable to unveil it.

A strong, silent type. A softly spoken kind of guy. A quiet man, really.

Sure who else could it be, but Michael Ring, the mouth
of Mayo?

The Ringer will be in Cong tomorrow to unveil a bronze statue commemorating the filming of The Quiet Man in Mayo in 1951. It depicts Sean Thornton (John Wayne) and Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’Hara), who played the leading characters.

Cong Festival
The sculpture is by Mark Rode, an Australian who moved to Mayo and runs a studio and it was commissioned as part of the Cong Festival.

We bet Ring won’t forget to mention that Mayo organised a staggering 470 Gathering festivals this year. He’s done enough shouting about it in Dublin.

Not so starry plough as Kelly turns over old ground

All calm again in the Labour Party. At least that’s what they say, after the upset over their lack of presence at the Ploughing Championships and their leader’s absences abroad – when he should be at home looking after business.

It was a tense opening 20 minutes or so to the parliamentary party meeting. The party’s ploughing no-show was a major bone of contention. Finally, they moved on. Whereupon Minister of State Alan Kelly arrived in, unaware that they had just finished arguing about the recent agricultural debacle. He said he had something very important to bring up.

”Why didn’t we have a stand at the Tullamore Show . . .”

Oh, dear.

Eamon Gilmore and Joan Burton presented a united front at their party’s final referendum press conference on Wednesday. But touchiness at the top may linger.

In between the usual drifting and doodling, this column diligently took notes while the party leader spoke. And the same when it was Burton’s turn to speak, although we admit to having looked up to get a good squint at her nice cream fitted suit.

”I see you’ve woken up now” harrumphed one of the Tánaiste’s handlers, standing behind us.


”I see you’ve woken up, now that Joan is speaking . . .”

Is Brussels ready for Big Phil?

And in betting news this week, Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan is now 2/5 with Paddy Power to be Ireland’s next EU commissioner. Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter are both at 8/1, with Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton at 9/1.

The appointment will be made next summer after the local and European elections and the new team in Brussels will take over in November 2014 when commission president José Manuel Barroso and Ireland’s
current commissioner
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn
step down.

Big Phil was in generous form when he addressed the Association of European Journalists during the week. He told the Mail’s political journalist, Ferghal Blaney, he regarded Neil T Blaney as a “political power house in the Custom House where we are still amending many of his Bills”. But he added he would be very happy if he could achieve the same level of success in local government reform as Neil T.

When asked about the possibility of some Senators causing problems for the Government if the Seanad is abolished he replied: “I’ve heard fellas asking people to ‘hold my coat’ in the past and they haven’t hit anyone.”

Meanwhile, we hear Hogan recently appointed former Garda commissioner Noel Conroy to the board of the Private Residential Tenancies Board.

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