Miriam Lord: Enda starts his ‘Not Dead Yet’ tour

It’s also open season on private life of a man who bravely came out as a Fine Gael member

‘The ’Irish Independent’ spent much of the week fretting over how the electorate might cope with Leo Varadkar’s private life.’ Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

‘The ’Irish Independent’ spent much of the week fretting over how the electorate might cope with Leo Varadkar’s private life.’ Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Enda Kenny must be delighted with how this week turned out. He’ll be off to Washington now in the best of form.

With his Fine Gael milksops misfiring on all cylinders on Wednesday, the Taoiseach didn’t have to do much to avoid handing his detractors a firm date for when he intends to step down.

He told the parliamentary party meeting he wasn’t going to be bullied into setting a timeline for his departure.

They milksops may console themselves by arguing they have disabused him of the notion of an overly long goodbye, but the fact remains that not one of them had the gumption to stand up on Wednesday night and make the case they have been making for months to every political correspondent within whispering distance.

Kenny, 15 years as leader of Fine Gael, knew they wouldn’t. Their silence was a small victory, but important to him.

He’ll be his effervescent self now for the next couple of months, throwing himself into his trip to the White House along with a series of Brexit-related engagements in Europe and hoping people might start asking why we have to let him go.

So singer Phil Collins (at 66, only 3 months older than the Taoiseach) won’t be the only sexagenarian doing the rounds and giving it socks this March and April.

Phil is on his “Not Dead Yet: Live” tour. So is Enda.

Which means everyone in the party has to pretend a Fine Gael leadership contest is not in full swing.

It’s well under way with two declared (in an under the table way) runners and a few more wondering whether it night be worth their while to have a go.

An openly concerned Irish Independent spent much of the week fretting over how the electorate might cope with the concept of an openly human man, who bravely came out as a member of Fine Gael, sensationally becoming taoiseach while not married to an openly female lady who can have children.

Openly worrying that people might not have “moved on”, they ran helpful pictures for confused hermits to tease out this conundrum in a compare-and-contrast exercise.

They featured a photo of an openly married Simon Coveney with an openly married Mrs Coveney alongside a photo of an openly alone Leo Varadkar.

All lovely, like in the nice, unthreatening Sesame Street song: “One of these things is not like the other . . .” Having considered the matter fully with the aid of Facebook snaps featuring the potential Taoiseach’s openly manly non-lady partner, the Indo concluded – in an openly compassionate column entitled “Why Leo Varadkar having a boyfriend does matter” – that it matters because it does matter that it actually doesn’t matter.

Still with us?

We were delighted to learn that Varadkar has a partner who is openly “dashing” and a real doctor (not a lady doctor) to boot. Matthew is his “rock”.

This exploration of the Minister’s personal life was widely discussed in Leinster House.

A politician’s sexual orientation could be a legitimate subject for discussion if it were to have a bearing on the outcome of a very close electoral contest, and should Leo Varadkar win the race and take over as Taoiseach, the fact that Catholic Ireland becomes only the fourth country in the world to have a gay prime minister would make headlines around the world.

It is the perceived tone of some of this week’s coverage that people found objectionable.

Varadkar’s Cabinet colleagues were unhappy with the publicity about his private life, while his team of advisers was “not going near” the story. But questions are being asked.

“I’m not going to make my personal life and my family life an issue in any campaign and I hope and trust others won’t do either,” the Dublin West TD said yesterday.

Here is the full list of possible contenders: Leo Varadkar (openly diffident) Simon Coveney (openly dull) Simon Harris (openly dithering) Frances Fitzgerald (openly delaying) And Paschal “thank you very much for not ruling me out but I’m grand where I am at the moment” Donohoe (openly dimpled). Four of the five are openly heterosexual.

Not that it matters.

Disclosures or closed orders? The choice is clear

And so it begins.

On Monday morning in Dublin Castle, Mr Justice Peter Charleton will deliver the opening statement of the “Disclosures Inquiry” into the Garda whistleblower controversy.

The Charleton tribunal crept up on us very fast. We sent in our application letter only a few weeks ago and the Mother of Novitiates hasn’t come back with a firm date yet.

Oh, it’s all very fine for the young ones. They don’t know the spirit-sapping torture of tribunals. How they go on forever and nothing ever comes of them.

How politicians use them as an excuse not to comment on issues they are perfectly free to address, preferring to spoof away about the matter being “sub judice”. Which it isn’t.

How, if somebody looks crooked at a witness with a fat wallet, the lawyers run across to the Four Courts and hold everything up.

How people lie through their teeth and get away with it.

How a report eventually, somehow, is published and sidelined after an appropriate period of roaring.

This one might be different. Maybe it will be. If anyone can get it done speedily, Peter Charleton can.

But it’s too late for some of us. An enclosed order is the only way to go. It worked for Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act. If the Redemptorists in Drumcondra won’t have me, I’m off to the Poor Clares in Galway.

Ross takes different tack from his tribunal verdict

The Minister for Transport hasn’t much time for tribunals either. He’s not very fond of commissions of inquiry or long drawn out reviews either.

Shane Ross wrote in June 2015 that they are a “wonder drug” which “injects amnesia into the minds of the masses”. Private or public, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about burying political skeletons.

“The template is perfect. Find a beak. Give him a budget. Burden him with lashings of work, a staff of experts and consultants. Lock him in a room for six months. Specify safe terms of reference.

“When he discovers that he is only half way through his task, give him an extension. And another. After he eventually emerges with his report, there will be a media furore. The frenzy will only last a few days. But all is well: the report will be debated in the Dáil . . .”

He’s dead right.

“Whoever wrote the bible on how to defuse a political crisis should have patented the commission cocktail and sold it to the Irish government.

The tribunal/ commission of investigation formula has served the Irish political elite well.

It has silenced TDs – forbidden from discussing sub-judice matters – removed politically embarrassing matters from public view and allowed the Government to resume its only object of winning the next election.”

We were surprised when the Independent Alliance demanded and secured from the Taoiseach an independent review of Farda operations as their price for staying in government after the McCabe controversy.

But then, the option of a tribunal or commission had already been taken.

No election without more corriboard

Politicians fearing a snap general election are safe for at least another month.

There has been panic in various party headquarters around Dublin with the news that there is a severe shortage of corriboard.

This is the lightweight corrugated PVC board used for election posters. It’s strong and waterproof. It’s also expensive – another reason not to hold an election any time soon.

This doesn’t mean the political parties are not on an election footing. Preparations are well under way, just in case.

Earlier this week there was some crisis texting between the Fianna Fáil general secretary and the Labour party general secretary on the corriboard situation. They are both very low on stock.

The bad news is there is at least a three-week delay on the importation of further supplies.

So there’ll be no election until it arrives.

If the cap fits, wear it in the Dáil

Well done to Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly. First with this year’s Easter Lily and wearing it proudly on her lapel in the Dáil chamber this week. A sticky-on paper one.

And congratulations again to Michael Healy-Rae for reaching a groundbreaking agreement with the Leinster House authorities this week.

He now has permission to wear his cap in the chamber, the first time in Dáil history.

With any luck, it’ll open the sartorial floodgates in stuffy, old-fashioned Leinster House.

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