Miriam Lord: FG blueblood wedding could put icing on cake

Cabinet figures are to gather for exquisitely timed nuptials of former senator Eugene Regan

 

Blueshirt weddings are brilliant.

The disastrous 2010 heave against Enda Kenny was hatched at a Fine Gael wedding in Killiney.

The following year, at a wedding in Donegal, guests convinced Gay Mitchell that he would make a great candidate for the presidency.

That ended in disaster too.

Although it must be stressed, the two happy couples are still blissfully happy.

And today, of all days, a huge Fine Gael wedding is taking place in Dublin 4.

Former senator and Fine Gael blueblood Eugene Regan, appointed by the Government in 2015 to the European Court of Justice, is marrying his Danish partner, Janne Storgaard.

The Cabinet is invited.

What exquisite timing.

The Taoiseach is expected this afternoon, along with Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney, Frances Fitzgerald, Simon Harris and Richard Bruton. Paschal Donohoe, who has ruled himself out of the leadership race, will be conveniently abroad in the United States on Government business.

What on Earth will they all talk about?

Oh, to be a fly on the wall at the champagne reception before early-evening dinner in the Intercontinental Hotel in Ballsbridge (formerly the Four Seasons).

Of course, everything will be lovely.

That’s if Enda and his Ministers ever get through the front door.

“You go first, Taoiseach.”

“No, after you, Leo.”

“No, after you.”

“Go on. I insist, Taoiseach.”

“Fire away, Simon, sure I’m in no rush at all.”

And so on.

The small talk should be divine.

Backs will not be to walls, clear views in all directions will not be requested and they won’t be watching each other like hawks.

We’re not talking a mafia wedding here, but top-drawer Fine Gael. And all will be sweetness and light over the canapes and starched napery.

No obvious Taking Care of Business on the premises. Although Simon Harris (hasn’t ruled himself out) will be watching it all very carefully while Varadkar will be bringing backbencher Noel Rock along to taste his dinner for him.

And the hotel might be wise to insist that all violin cases are left at the door.

Just to be on the safe side.

Back in 2010, a number of the party’s ambitious young guns attended the wedding reception of legal adviser Jennifer Carroll and rugby legend Hugo MacNeill. The occasion coincided with an Irish Times poll which saw Fine Gael slump further in the ratings while Labour went up by eight points to top the rankings for the first time in its history.

With Fianna Fáil’s popularity on the slide, worried guests saw this as proof that Labour leader Eamon Gilmore was running rings around his Fine Gael counterpart. They decided it was time to oust Kenny.

Their poorly-organised coup backfired and Enda went on to become the first Fine Gael taoiseach to win two consecutive general elections.

A year on, and Fine Gael politicians at the wedding of Dublin regional organiser were grumbling about the leadership’s determination to push “blow-in” Pat Cox as the party’s candidate for the presidential election.

As they dined in Donegal’s Lough Eske Castle hotel, it was suggested to Dublin MEP Gay Mitchell that he would make a great candidate. He decided to have a go.

But after a nightmare campaign, Mitchell was trounced at the polls and ended up with less than 7 per cent of the vote.

Fine Gaelers are waiting with bated breath to see what political upheaval will follow these latest nuptials.

And in the meantime, sending heartiest congratulations and best wishes to Eugene and Janne on their big day.

Big Phil swings into Dublin in Kenny’s hour of need

Phil Hogan kept a low profile around Merrion Street on Thursday.

The sight of Big Phil slipping into the Taoiseach’s private office in Government Buildings would have sent the jittery Fine Gaelers into meltdown.

Veterans of the heave against Enda Kenny don’t need reminding that Hogan masterminded their defeat and is now enjoying his reward in Brussels as Ireland’s European Commissioner.

Next week, another heave on the cards if Enda doesn’t indicate to his colleagues when he intends stepping down as Taoiseach. Sooner, rather than later, is what they want to hear. Otherwise, things may get messy.

And suddenly, Big Phil is back on the scene.

He was on a pre-arranged visit, apparently. It just so happened that his arrival coincided with the beginning of another move against Enda.

The commissioner’s considerable presence in the Taoiseach’s office might put the wind up deputies and Senators taking a more lenient line on how much longer he should remain in office. Did it indicate a digging-in of the Kenny heels? Some of Kenny’s critics believe he’ll have to be dynamited out of the place.

But if Hogan is the man who helped to keep Enda in his job, he certainly won’t be there to help him cling to it.

He said on radio that their meeting had been businesslike and about European issues. He wouldn’t be “presumptive” by giving advice to the Taoiseach on when to call it a day.

“It’s business as usual, I saw yesterday anyway, when I met him.”

Which is exactly what concerns the parliamentary party.

There are whispers that Big Phil is saying privately that Enda is nursing hopes of a Lazarus-like recovery from his current difficulties.

But , of course, he didn’t want to appear presumptive when he spoke to the Taoiseach.

And it’s probably just as well he didn’t presume to offer his very strongest personal advice to Enda on the danger of overstaying one’s welcome, because that advice might well have been roundly rebuffed.

Varadkar tunes up for election with fundraiser in Medley

Leo Varadkar is preparing for any eventuality.

He’s holding a big fundraiser for his personal campaign on Wednesday and tickets, at €150 a head, are sold out.

“With Brexit, the election of President Trump and the collapse of the power-sharing Executive in Northern Ireland, it is evident that we live in unstable times politically. I want to clear our remaining election debt and begin to raise funds for the next electoral contest whenever it comes,” he says in a letter to supporters, enclosing a note on the current rules relating to corporate and political donations.

Guests will enjoy a reception followed by dinner in Medley, a new spot in the old Irish Times building. “I thought it would be nice to hold it in a popular new start-up hospitality venue in the centre of Dublin. I think you and your guests will like it. Unfortunately, this means that space is limited,” wrote Leo.

“By the way, everyone attending is asked to wear something blue!”

Hope he isn’t detained at the parliamentary party meeting.

Discord over Leinster House Oíche Ceoil

It was all go for the Dáil Business Committee this week, what with fighting over agendas and redrawing schedules and bickering over speaking times and the ordering of business.

But then, there was a lot of discussing to do in the chamber and, in this era of new politics, all sides had to be accommodated.

When members gathered on Thursday for their usual weekly meeting, they were all a bit frazzled. The terms of reference for the latest tribunal of inquiry was the big issue, with non-Government TDs unhappy with the amount of information they were given and complaining that the House had been rushed into it.

But it wasn’t the biggest issue.

Seachtain na Gaeilge is coming up and it has been decided there will be an Oíche Ceoil in Leinster House this year. Wednesday March 8th is the chosen night – the same date as International Womens’ Day. Perhaps they might combine the two and adopt a theme of comely maidens dancing at the crossroads.

The Ceann Comhairle seemed very keen on the idea of a “Céilí Mór”. Fianna Fáil’s Michael Moynihan said something about “being back in the Gaeltacht again” and the hordes of officials in attendance pondered very seriously how this might be done in accordance with the rules and dignity of the House.

Needless to say, the politicians couldn’t agree on anything.

So they formed a committee instead.

O’Donnell fails to make Rock crumble

The ubiquitous Noel Rock, first-time Fine Gael TD for Dublin North West, was one of the first out of the traps this week to call for a change of leadership. Rock – who proposed Enda Kenny for Taoiseach four times before the Government was eventually called, is now an unofficial spokesman for team Leo.

The Simon Coveney operation is much more low-key, but it’s motoring along. One of Simon’s most high-profile supporters around Leinster House is first-time senator Tim Lombard, who replaced Coveney in 2003 on Cork City Council. Tim has been very much in evidence around the corridors this week, in huddles with fellow Coveneyites and possible converts.

Rock’s appearance on the News at One on Monday incensed staunch Kenny loyalist Marie-Louise O’Donnell. The Senator, who was given a second term in the Upper House last year as a Taoiseach’s nominee, caught sight of the TD in a corridor and gave chase while loudly condemning him for his “despicable act of treason” against the Taoiseach.

Marie-Louise hurled herself into the lift as the doors were closing and Noel was frantically trying to push the buttons to close the doors. She continued to lambast her colleague as the lift made its way to the fourth floor.

Cllr John McGahon from Louth had been minding his own business waiting for the lift to start when a breathless Rock landed in on top of him followed by the incandescent O’Donnell. He didn’t open his mouth, shrinking into the back wall as the pair shouted at each other.

The argument spilled on to the corridor as McGahon tip-toed away. “We didn’t all have our seats handed to us!” roared Noel. “I’ve earned my seat with decades of work in Ballymun, ” retorted Marie-Louise.

The office staff were thoroughly delighted by the show.

Independents choose St Patrick’s Day destinations

The Independent Alliance had an exhausting week. First, they had to wrestle with their consciences over whether they could continue to support the Government in Wednesday’s confidence vote. Along with this, they had to fend off a sustained onslaught from representatives of Fianna Fáil trying everything to find out what way they intended to jump.

While it was always highly unlikely that the alliance would give up its place in the minority Government, Fianna Fáil didn’t want to declare a position until they knew what Shane Ross and Co were going to do.

Calls to TDs and advisers grew ever more urgent as the group reserved its position on the fallout from the Garda whistleblower controversy to the bitter end.

It took them a while to do the negotiations but the doughty Independents got what they wanted – their choice of St Patrick’s Day destinations.

“When Supt Ross and Sgt McGrath broke cover, I knew we were safe,” sighed a relieved FFer when the Minister and super-junior Minister were spotted on the plinth.

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