Miriam Lord’s Week: Fine Gael gets the timing out for Limerick conference

Bloomberg chief impresses at Chamber of Commerce dinner


So, Fine Gael holds its conference in Limerick today, with the Taoiseach and his Ministers away from base even though Tuesday’s budget hasn’t yet been finalised.

It’s rather inconvenient, if truth be told. The Labour side isn’t particularly impressed.

But when the date was arranged Enda’s people envisaged making the trip with a referendum victory in the bag and a hall full of supporters waiting to cheer their leader’s success.

Carlow-Kilkenny TD John Paul Phelan couldn’t make yesterday’s opening session because he was called to the bar by Chief Justice Susan Denham in the Supreme Court.

“I’ve been studying by night for the past four years,” he tells us. “I began when I was in the Seanad, and decided to see it out when I was elected to the Dáil.”

JP tells us. “I’m not going to be practising for the foreseeable future. I hope.”

The parliamentary party has reduced in size since the last Fine Gael conference. We noticed this week that the members of the breakaway “RA” group – led by Lucinda Creighton – have taken to dining together in the back of the Dáil members’ restaurant at the table where the PDs used to sit.

One FG backbencher was intrigued on Wednesday night to see Paul Kehoe, the Government chief whip, occupying the table next to them. We don’t know if he was taking notes.

Meanwhile, back in Limerick, a lot of the talk is about the looming local elections. Selection conventions have been taking place around the country.

The names of the chosen candidates must go to the party’s national executive for ratification. The members can add names to the ticket or remove some.

They’ll be love-bombed by the hopefuls all weekend.

Speaking of love-bombing, the Senators were very well behaved at their first parliamentary party meeting since Enda tried to abolish them.

They know the Taoiseach is well aware that Senators gave him crucial support during the failed heave against his leadership.

So when Seanad reform is considered he won’t want to upset this valuable block of support anymore than he already has.

Former colleagues have strong words over Labour credentials

Strong words between Labour’s Eric Byrne and former party colleague Colm Keaveney in the Dáil on Thursday.

Keaveney had just been thrown off the agriculture committee to make way for Willie Penrose, who was readmitted to the parliamentary party having served his time following his mini-mutiny over the closure of Mullingar barracks.

(Having lost the whip for voting against the party, there was some amusement when the popular Penrose marked his return with a lengthy and very passionate speech to his colleagues about loyalty).

As Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher taunted the Tánaiste over his treatment of Keaveney, the Galway East TD was having a little set-to on the sidelines with Byrne.

“There’s a fight – Labour Party!” Sinn Féin’s Dessie Ellis told the leas ceann comhairle.

Their argument centred on Labour Party credentials, with Keaveney reminding the Dublin South Central Deputy of his Workers Party roots.

Byrne stressed he was a member of Labour, unlike Keaveney.

”You’re a stickie, you’re a stickie,” came the retort from his former party chairman, who pointed to his kneecaps and called Eric “the corporal of Meath Street”.

There was more in the same vein – clearly heard.

Strangely, the exchanges are not in the official Dáil record.

Eamon Gilmore, meanwhile, is doing his best to steady the Labour ship after recent unrest. The Tánaiste told his TDs and Senators that changes would be implemented on three fronts. Communications (working group looking into, etc); policy and political reform (another working group) and last, but not least, discipline (new code of practice to exterminate the leakers).

Transgressors face “a catalogue of sanctions” and “a suite of disciplines”. Precise details are not available.

Doctoroff has them in heaven with a dose of Irish
The impressive Dan Doctoroff, chief executive and president of Bloomberg, was the guest speaker at Thursday’s annual Dublin Chamber of Commerce dinner.

“Bear with me as I butcher your lovely language for a moment,” he began. Taking a deep breath, he consulted his script, upon which was written: “Tah-on awe-hiss orrim ah-veh on-shuhih-balah Awe-hah clee-uh a-nuct.”

Whereupon the assembled worthies accorded the Bloomberg boss the sort of reception not witnessed since Queen Elizabeth attempted the cupla focail in Dublin Castle.

And when the applause subsided, a relieved Doctoroff quipped “I haven’t had that much trouble getting through a sentence since I had to read Hebrew for my bar mitzvah”.

The audience went into paroxysms.

Doctoroff was on a roll.

”We all know that this has been a difficult week politically here in Ireland. You have a Government that’s been unable to shut down a branch of the legislature. But, it could be worse…”

And Enda smiled.

“In the US we have a branch of the legislature that has shut down our government. If it were up to me I’d happily trade our Congress for your Senate.”

Be careful, Dan. Our lot adore going to America – the title senator opens all sorts of doors there. They’ll be over to you like a shot.

Halligan brings a touch of poetry to the halls of Leinster House
“If more politicians knew poetry and more poets knew politics, I’m convinced the world would be a better place to live.”

Playwright Jim Nolan quotes JFK in his foreword to a new collection of poetry by Independent TD John Halligan which was launched in the Waterford Book Centre last week.

John’s technical group colleague, Shane Ross, did the honours at the launch of Drop by Drop Upon the Heart. It’s a slim volume, but an engaging, wistful, thought-provoking read.

The independent deputy for Waterford dedicated the book to terminally ill multiple sclerosis sufferer Marie Fleming and her partner, Tom Curran.

Shane Ross applauded Halligan for his openness: “Very few of us TDs are willing to give away anything about our personal life.”

Maybe a few more of them might follow John’s lead. Our money is on Richard Boyd Barrett. During the recent Dáil tributes to poet Seamus Heaney, RBB revealed: “Before I became involved or was dragged into politics, I was a student of English literature in UCD and my ambition was to be a poet.”

Our favourite poem among Halligan’s reflections on love and life is one about his fondness for the sun. In the drab corridors of Leinster House, there is a certain Mediterranean flamboyance about John Halligan.

Oh To Be an Italian Signor

I would like to grow old in the sun

Weather beaten and dark brown

Like an Italian who lives a life of glam

And wears white shoes all of the time

Yes I can live with that

Not brooding under grey wet skies

And smashing my way through puddles

On recession beaten footpaths

And living white faced to the end.

And finally...
A joke to finish.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Because it isn’t a politician...

We hear ministers will not be making the usual budget day trip for interviews in Buswells Hotel or the nearby Oireachtas broadcasting facility in Kildare Street.

They will take place instead in the small facility within Leinster House because the authorities have decided it’s not safe for them to cross Kildare Street.

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