Miriam Lord’s Week: Ó Caoláin keeps to the left of Fine Gael

Humphreys gave schoolchildren day off while Varadkar gave tips on keeping pounds off

Right to left: Martin McVicar and Robert Moffett of Combilift, Tom Kelly of Enterprise Ireland,  Richard Bruton, Heather Humphreys, Senator Joe O’Reilly, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Seán Conlan and . . . Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin! Photograph: Photobomb

Right to left: Martin McVicar and Robert Moffett of Combilift, Tom Kelly of Enterprise Ireland, Richard Bruton, Heather Humphreys, Senator Joe O’Reilly, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Seán Conlan and . . . Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin! Photograph: Photobomb

 

At first glance, it looks like yet another PR picture for the Taoiseach and his jobs minister.

Enda Kenny and Richard Bruton were in Monaghan yesterday to announce 200 new jobs at the Combilift heavy machinery manufacturing company.

The local Fine Gael top brass from Cavan-Monaghan turned out in force, keen to welcome their honoured guests and doubly keen to get that all-important photo with the party leader and Taoiseach.

The bosses from Combilift stand at the far right of the doughnut around Enda, but the political professionals have tightened themselves into the frame.

There’s Cavan-Monaghan TD Seán Conlan, then Enda with Senator Joe O’Reilly popping up at his shoulder next to Minister Heather Humphreys and her Cabinet colleague, Richard Bruton.

But wait?

Who is that man on the far left of this happy Fine Gael family photo?

Is it a new party member? He looks very pleased to be there, and very much at home.

It’s a very well done to Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, formerly of SF but now Provisional FG – our Photobomber of the Week.

TRAGEDY AS HEATHER SHOOTS FROM THE HIP

As tragic hen harrier Heather bit the dust in Kerry last weekend, thousands of disgusted schoolchildren and their teachers complained bitterly that the wrong Heather had been taken out.

Not that they meant any actual harm to come to the Minister for the Arts (she’s had a rocky enough start in Government as it is), but Heather Humphreys caused consternation at a musical evening in Dublin when she took to the stage to congratulate the performers.

She was in the RDS for the Peace Proms – a choral education project for primary schools run by the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland, set up in 1995 as an offshoot of the peace process.

In the Peace Proms, schoolchildren sing with the orchestra and their concerts have been a great success over the years, packing out large venues with doting mammies, daddies and grannies. Last Sunday night’s performance was no exception.

The 7,000 seater Simmonscourt Pavilion was stuffed, the orchestra was sublime and 2,300 youngsters from 45 schools sang their hearts out.

What could go wrong?

After long and rapturous applause, various dignitaries rose to express their praise, including Heather.

She was delighted. In fact, she was so delighted she got carried away. “I think you all deserve the day off tomorrow,” she declared.

Cue wild cheers from the children – who interpreted this as a ministerial edict, supportive applause from the stunned audience and fixed smiles on the faces of teachers, who’d have to be the grinches who stole Christmas.

And all across the car park, as parents steered the performers home, came faint wails of “But she said it. She’s the Minister! The Minister said . . .”

Never mind, Heather. Unless there’s a change to the Constitution, they won’t have the vote for at least another six years.

The other Heather was the subject of discussion in the Seanad on Tuesday.

“There is grave concern in my part of the world at the shooting down of Heather in the Waterville area,” began Fine Gael and Killarney’s Paul Coghlan, who gave a potted history of the hen harrier’s short life before charting all the areas she visited before she was cruelly shot down.

“There are only 100 pairs of this bird left in Ireland. Sadly, in that same area, one of the Killarney-reared white-tailed sea eagles was shot a few years ago . . .”

Whereupon Fianna Fáil’s Ned O’Sullivan, another Kerry Senator with a keen interest in large birds, sprang to attention. “Seagulls?”

A bird in which Ned has a great interest. He’d love to see Dublin city’s seagulls go the way of poor Heather.

“No. Sea eagles,” said Paul. “But on that point, if there is someone who is trigger happy in that area, maybe he or she could lend some assistance to my colleague, Senator O’Sullivan, who could point out some screeching seagulls near his Dublin residence.”

Seagulls? Did somebody say seagulls? Ned was off again.

“I share the concerns of my colleague on the reprehensible shooting of that rare bird in Kerry and to assure the Senator I had no hand, act or part in it.

“I am generally a bird lover, but I have an attitude towards the city seagulls which was ridiculed some time ago but has been given a post hoc validation by the decision of the Department of Health to invest quite an amount of money in seagull controls on its building in Hawkins House.”

At this point, the Listowel based Senator decided to glide in a different direction.

“While I am in flight, I would like to speak about the recent activities of the Russian airforce and its manoeuvres with its planes – which have nuclear capacity – playing hide and seek around the west coast of Ireland with the RAF.”

Fianna Fáil’s Denis O’Donovan supplied an explanation.

“Maybe it shot down the hen harrier.”

LEAN ON ME, SAYS CALORIE-COUNTER VARADKAR TO COVENEY

Do as I say, not as I do. That’s the sort of behaviour that gives politicians a bad name.

But what about Leo Varadkar? The Minister for Health wants restaurants to display calorie counts on menus. “Giving calorie details on menus is a very simple but effective way of encouraging people to choose a healthier option,” he said this week.

Varadkar, it must be said, practises what he preaches.

While not as bad as Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who appears to survive on nuts and berries, Leo has moved on from his fizzy drink and jelly tot days. “I suppose I probably do take a keen interest in my calorie intake, but I’m not a zealot,” he says.

“But I discovered I put on weight far easier than I lose it, so I watch calories and carbs now. But I break out most weekends.”

Any tips? “Did you know that an 8oz steak is lower in cals than duck a l’orange, pizza or a veggie stir fry. Most people don’t know that.”

Nor do we know if Leo or Simon Coveney counted the calories when they had dinner together in Limerick last week.

The two men were spotted deep in conversation.

News of their dinner left some insiders wondering if it was their equivalent of the 1994 Blair/Brown deal in Britain, when Tony and Gordon met in a London restaurant and allegedly reached a gentleman’s agreement on the future leadership of the Labour Party.

It was supposed to be Blair first, then Brown. But it didn’t go too well.

In the case of Simon and Leo, who’s Blair and who’s Brown?

FOOTBALL QUESTION LEAVES NAVA STUMPED

Professor Bill Black got all the headlines when he appeared before the banking inquiry on Thursday, but the European Commission’s regulation and supervision watchdog was also on the witness lift.

The rather serious Mario Nava was nonplussed by chairman Ciarán Lynch’s determination to talk to him about soccer. “I thank Mr Nava for his opening statement . . . and I thank the Commission, as a significant EU institution, for its co-operation with the inquiry,” began Ciarán. “I note that Mr Nava comes from Milan. In that regard, I might use a comparison to explain what the European Commission does. Milan is very famous for its football teams. If I could describe banks as football clubs and central banks as national football associations, is Mr Nava’s role in the commission comparable to Fifa or to Uefa in terms of setting the rules?”

Mario wasn’t expecting that.

“I come from Milan, the land of two famous football teams. I do not quite get the equation between the two, but I am very happy to explain our role.”

Fine Gael’s Kieran O’Donnell tried to help. “Mr Nava is interested more in banking than in soccer.”

Ciarán persisted: “But would the Uefa . . . ”

Mario stopped him and continued his explanation. “I like the idea of trying to bring . . .”

“We’re more interested in speaking about soccer,” sighed Kieran.

Lynch told him to wait his turn. Finally, the man from the commission got around to explaining what he does. But Lynch couldn’t let go.

“I thank Mr Nava. In summary, to use my own analogy, Mr Nava is Uefa and he sets the rules for Europe in terms of banking institutions and national regulations.”

And to think Ciarán is from Cork. Not a mention of hurling or the county board.

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