Super Simon Coveney earns the plaudits for marathon talks on fishing deal

“That man is a machine!” said one tweeter quoted in German newspaper Die Welt

Sat, May 18, 2013, 01:00

Anything good in Die Welt this week?

Simon Coveney made the daily briefing notes column on Thursday thanks to the hours he put in during the fisheries talks in Brussels.

The short piece quotes an unnamed fan on Twitter who was so impressed by Super Simon’s stamina that he tweeted: “that man is a machine!”

Die Welt explained the Irish Minister for Agriculture, who was chairing a meeting of EU agriculture and fisheries ministers, had achieved a significant breakthrough on the contentious practice of discarding fish following 36 hours of intense negotiations.

We took a look at Coveney’s schedule, and right enough, it’s packed. He arrived in Brussels on Sunday night and had a two-hour preparatory session for the “agrifish” meeting. The talks began at half eight on Monday morning and finished at half nine that night. He did two radio interviews in his lunch hour.

Tuesday began with a press briefing, before he returned to chair further discussions about fish. And it was fish all the way through the day – he opened the meeting at half eight in the morning – and into the night and on into the following morning.

Coveney finally finished negotiations at half six on Wednesday morning. Then it was straight to media interviews and after that he delivered an address to the CEPS think tank. Although, given the subject, perhaps that should be the CEPS fish tank.

Next was a European Parliament meeting on the fish discussions, then another meeting with interest groups on the subject and a final television interview at midday. Then Super Simon took a flight home and went straight to the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting.

His colleagues were too nice to say it, but we’re told there was a terrible bang of mackerel off him. The seven civil servants who travelled with Coveney have been offered counselling.

GAA chief on the ball with nostalgic present for tearful Enda
Not for the first time, Enda Kenny was close to tears in Croke Park yesterday. But on this occasion, it wasn’t because his beloved Mayo had just suffered another All-Ireland disappointment.

The Taoiseach was at the stadium to officially open the newly refurbished GAA museum, which now includes a Hall of Fame and a gallery of modern sporting heroes.

It will also feature a number of interactive exhibits when the final phase of the renovation is complete. The old favourites, such as the original Liam Mac Carthy and Sam Maguire cups, still remain in the bigger set-up.

Enda was in his element, kicking footballs and swinging hurleys and clowning around with bemused schoolchildren from Achill island who happened to be on their school tour. They sang him a bracing few choruses of The Green and Red of Mayo.

At the end of the formalities, GAA president Liam O’Neill surprised the Taoiseach with a special gift – a framed copy of the original match programme from the 1936 All-Ireland final. Enda got a little choked when he saw it, because his late father, Henry, was a member of the winning Mayo team that beat Laois to win the Sam Maguire.

“The GAA is the soul of the country,” he said. (We hope they didn’t hear that down the road in the Archbishop’s palace – he’s in enough trouble with the clergy as it is.)

Then, with a wistful smile and a faint quiver of the lip, he sat down and studied it carefully.

“If it comes down to it, I’ll have to legislate for a Mayo All-Ireland,” he sighed.

Norris buys not Big Phil’s bonhomie as Seanad’s teeth pickle in a jam-jar
And away from the latest riveting episode of The Protection of Sanity during Committee Hearings on Abortion Legislation, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas in the Seanad.

Enda and Big Phil have been lovingly tending their senatorial turkeys in the run-up to the slaughter, enticing them towards the chop with honeyed words of praise and encouragement. Phil Hogan was in the chamber on Wednesday for the debate on Catherine Zapone and Fergal Quinn’s Seanad reform Bill.

Big Phil thought the Bill was great and thinks senators are lovely and hopes everyone will have a seriously serious debate on the future of the Seanad before the Government tries to wring its neck in the autumn.

“The people ultimately will decide. That is the spirit of tolerance behind the Government’s decision to approve second stage of this Bill today,” smarmed Hogan.

David Norris wasn’t buying his bonhomie. “I admire the Minister because I admire affrontery. I have never seen anything quite as dazzling as the Minister’s affrontery here tonight. In fact, it calls to mind the popular association between political neck and the undercarriage of a jockey as he approaches Becher’s Brook,” he thundered, slamming the Government’s “squalid motivation in attempting to sacrifice the Seanad in exchange for the complete bags everyone in the other House made of the economy”.

Norris noted Phil “was very conciliatory and all the rest of it. He also said he was accommodating because he liked debate – like hell he does. The reason he is here is he is facing a rebellion on the Government benches. As this Bill would have gone through anyway, he was faced with realpolitik. That’s the only reason he’s here; there is no other. Thank God, Seanad Éireann has at last found its teeth.”

(In a jam-jar behind the sink in the gents’ lavatory beside the Members’ bar, apparently.)

Senator Norris was in flying form, arguing passionately for a reformed second chamber as opposed to the appalling vista of abolition. As he raged on, we could hear the crunch of jackboots on the plinth outside.

“The Government has everything. It won the presidency and the general election. It controls the Seanad, the Dáil, councils, the Army, the Naval Service, the Air Corps, the police and the banks that it bought with our money.”

God help us.

“We are being handed out as a sacrifice, as a little lump of meat in order that the ravening voters can savage what is handed out as a deceit by the Government for its own crimes,” he told smiling Phil.

After the senators warned of Ireland’s imminent slide into fascism, they agreed their Seanad reform Bill is the only way to protect our fragile democracy from the approaching apocalypse.

And so to the next step. “When is it proposed to take committee stage?” asked Senator Jillian Van Turnhout, bless her innocence.

“Next Tuesday,” said Maurice Cummins, leader of the House, with a straight face.

Excellent. Except for one detail. The Seanad is closed on Tuesday because the chamber is hosting another round of Jerry Buttimer’s Protection of Sanity during Committee Hearings on Abortion Legislation extravaganza.

Leinster House goodwill messages absent from 30th celebrations of Phoenix
The Phoenix magazine celebrated 30 years in business this week.

Politicians past and present queued outside the magazine’s Baggot Street headquarters to offer their best wishes and congratulations to long-serving editor, Paddy Prendeville – the man every politician and journalist loves to hear at the other end of their phone line.

Actually, no messages of goodwill winged their way for the Kildare Street neighbours. Just the usual threatening ones.

While the Phoenix may not always get everything right, the magazine has broken more than its fair share of scoops over the years.

One of the most memorable was the revelation that Ben Dunne had given Charlie Haughey over a million pounds, and one of the most amusing concerned former tánaiste Mary Harney using an Air Corps fisheries protection plane to fly to Sligo so she could perform the opening of a friend’s off-licence in Manorhamilton. (A Garda car and driver was laid on to bring her from the airport to the off-licence.)

Lots of solicitors’ letters down the road – in 2008 Anglo Irish Bank threatened them with an injunction for saying the bank was technically bankrupt but didn’t carry through on the threat – Phoenix is still going strong.

“We were wondering at the time why they were being so aggressive,” remarks Prendeville. “We know now.”

This month’s soaraway 30th anniversary issue incorporates a backwards glance over three decades of infamy, ignominy and skulduggery in the corridors of power. All the usual suspects feature.

Rabbitte not so keen on playing to the rebels
We were very touched last month when Labour backbencher Robert Dowds made a heartfelt plea to Labour rebels who have left the parliamentary party to return to the fold.

His senior colleague, Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte, isn’t quite so keen on the idea. Particularly where one difficult deputy from Galway East is concerned. When Colm Keaveney departed the parliamentary party after refusing to vote through budget welfare cuts, Rabbitte accusing him of attention seeking and “pirouetting on the plinth” for the media.

He hasn’t changed his view. Just over a week ago, the Minister was guest of honour at a fundraising lunch in Dublin for Keaveney’s constituency colleague in the West, Senator Lorraine Higgins.

Rabbitte introduced her to the 70 paying guests at the €100 a plate luncheon in the Clyde Court Hotel (formerly The Berkeley Court) as “the next Labour party TD in the new three seater of Galway East,” ignoring the fact that the party already has a sitting deputy in the constituency.

Needless to say, word got back to Tuam and Keaveney, who may have left the fold in Leinster House but is still very much in the picture as Labour Party Chairman.

”I know very little about the event and I certainly wasn’t invited. But then, my public ambition is not about rubbing bellies in 5 star hotels in Dublin 4. My political ambition is in Galway” he shrugs, warming to his topic of “lavish lunches” and Minister “I think Pat is prone to pirouetting” Rabbitte.

”I’m less concerned about what they ate and more interested in whether that hotel is unionised. In the centenary of the Great Lockout, Larkin and Connolly would be turning in their graves.”

As opposed to pirouetting.

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