Miriam Lord’s Week: Áras garden party on moral high ground

Michael D Higgins wants his term to be a Presidency of ideas – recognising new paradigms of thought and action

Sat, Jun 28, 2014, 01:00

Michael D’s garden party season is in full swing. He has held two of them already – the first, last Saturday, was for families and on Wednesday, he hosted “an ethics garden party” . Whatever that’s supposed to be.

We didn’t get an invite, so the ethical hat had to stay in the wardrobe along with our ethical sandals and ethical frock.

What do you do at “an ethics garden party?” Would an ethics barbecue be a sin?

According to newspaper reports, the attendance included representatives from community groups, charities, professional bodies, third-level institutions and the media.

From what we can make out, the President gave a short speech about ethics during the event. He is very enthusiastic about his Ethics Initiative, hence the garden party theme.

According to his website, the President wants his term in office to be a “Presidency of ideas – recognising, and open to, new paradigms of thought and action” and he is seeking to develop “a public discourse that places human flourishing and an ethic of active citizenship at its heart”.

To this end, Michael D has explored the importance and challenge of ethics in Irish life and Ireland’s relationships abroad. He has focused on the ethical connection between our society and economy.

On Wednesday, the President talked of the need to “examine the ethical implications of some of the assumptions that guide the hegemonic theories within the discipline of economics” and stuff like that.

And he wants to get ethics “out of the ivory tower and the pulpit and into the market square”.

“It was very thought-provoking,” a guest told us.

We hear it was a tough gig for the face-painter and that the balloon man left in a huff because he was accused of making unethical sausage dogs and there were reports of unethical behaviour in the bouncy castle, but all this may be untrue.

They didn’t get the best of weather for the “ethics garden party.” It was bucketing. So guests spent most of their time in the marquee, where the musical entertainment was provided by singer Róisín O and the band The Walls.

“It was a very convivial occasion,” says our guest. “The food was lovely; all organic and grown in the walled garden.”

Michael D will hold eight garden parties this year.

Today, the President and his wife, Sabina, welcome members of the Dáil and the Northern Ireland Assembly. Members of the Seanad got a late call-up to attend in recent days.

Future parties will see people involved in community work and members of voluntary groups visiting the Áras, while one has been pencilled in for musical societies.

Short answer: Canon fails to fire over bus query James Bannon seemed to have some interesting news in the Dáil chamber on Tuesday.

The Longford TD arrived in during Leaders Questions and got stuck into a conversation with Bernard Durkan, Simon Harris and Patrick O’Donovan. He took a letter from his inside pocket and handed it to them. The three men studied it carefully and then they fell around the place laughing. Bannon looked again at the letter and he started laughing too.

Then he got up and sidled along the row until he reached Meath’s Ray Butler. He gave Ray the letter and he ended up in fits too.

Bannon, it transpires, had written a number of months ago to junior minister Ciarán Cannon with a specific query about school transport in his constituency. Ciarán – not many people know this – is the minister in charge of school buses. He didn’t get a reply. Until this week.

It was a very comprehensive reply.

“Dear James,” it read. “Thank you for your letter. Regards Ciarán.”

And that was it.

When the bus leaves the ministerial junior ranks next month, Ciarán might just be on it.

In which case Enda can write him a detailed letter. “Dear Cannon, You’re fired. Regards Enda.” Who will be first to be stretchered out of the game? Leo Varadkar and Michael Ring were outside Government Buildings on Wednesday to announce the news they are giving €200,000 to Mountain Rescue Ireland to buy new vehicles and equipment.

They had ambulances and volunteers in full kit on hand to enhance the photo opportunity. For a rare moment, the two fell silent, quietly contemplating a stretcher. “That’s for the reshuffle,” remarked Leo.

“Oh, there’ll be a lot of us stretchered out!” whooped Ringo. Not that the optimistic Minister of State for Tourism and Sport was referring to himself. When the reshuffle was mentioned, Michael bravely volunteered for duty.

“I’ll be very honest and open with ya . . . that’s a matter for the Taoiseach but I’m available to serve” he boomed with unbridled fervour.

In the meantime, it’s business as usual, which meant officiating at the opening of the Longford Clondara Cycling Way along the Royal Canal yesterday before returning to Mayo to “welcome” General Humbert and his forces as they marched by torchlight on Ballina. Ringo greeted the general after he led his army down Bothar na Sop to the military barracks.

Then they went to Walsh Street and jointly unveiled a plaque to Thomas Walsh, who was hanged by the British as they left the town in 1798.

It’s all part of the “In the Footsteps of Humbert” festival this weekend. Tomorrow sees the general’s Franco-Irish army take on the British redcoats in a full-dress 1798 Rebellion battle re-enactment.

Speaking of battlefields, Ring tells us he would be delighted to escort soccer player Luis Suárez to some GAA matches in the coming months as the All-Ireland championships hot up.

“Suárez won’t be able to do much in Liverpool until November, so he’s welcome to come to any of our fine stadiums here to watch some real, manly, football action. If he wants to keep his eye in, we could throw him into a hurling match for a few pucks. That’d soften his cough.”

One sushi breaks ice for Shatter Alan Shatter is a big fan of sushi. On Thursday, we spotted him enjoying a lunchtime fix in Yamamori Noodles on Sth Gt George’s Street. An agency photographer, on a mission to get a current shot of the former minister for justice, loitered outside. Alan likes that Japanese restaurant.

In March, when the Government took off on the annual St Patrick’s Day airlift, the controversy surrounding his handling of the Garda whistleblowers story seemed to be dying down. The Government was relieved and Shatter went off to Mexico thinking the worst was now behind him.

But he didn’t figure on Leo Varadkar popping up at a road safety conference in Dublin Castle where he praised the whistleblowers for highlighting abuses in the penalty points system and called them “distinguished”. Leo will have been aware that his colleague in justice had pointedly refused to give any credit to Garda John Wilson and Sgt Maurice McCabe and was standing by the then Garda commissioner, who had described their actions as “disgusting”.

This led to a souring of the relationship between the two ministers. Shatter was furious. Varadkar’s comments revived the controversy and drew Labour into the row. It was said that they were barely speaking to each other.

The poisonous atmosphere between the two went on for weeks. Then Leo went out for a bite to eat with a pal and ended up in Yamamori. They were led to a table only to find Alan sitting at the next one. Peace talks broke out. The incident is now known as the “Sushi Summit”.

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