MIRIAM LORD'S WEEK

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Asleep at the wheel; EU's fate decided over coffee; music to charity's ears; adults-only adventures; State's abundant wealth and Brian Who?

Wake-up call for State's leaders

PHEW! WHAT a week.

You'd need a lie down after all the excitement.

Unless, of course, you happen to be Minister for the Environment, in which case you need to lie down during the excitement.

At the height of the hugger-mugger on Monday night/Tuesday morning, when a band of distressed bankers burst into Government Buildings and forced the two Brians to stare down the barrels of an economic meltdown, John Gormley was in his bed in Irishtown, fast asleep.

During those tense hours, as the distressed bankers pressed their antique Purdeys to the nation's temple, the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance decided to convene an "incorporeal" Cabinet meeting.

Or put another way, organise a ring-around of Government Ministers to gain their approval for the guarantee scheme they were planning. At about 2am, Ministers were contacted by their private secretaries and put on standby for a very important conference call.

There was just one problem. Gormley, who likes to retire early, could not be contacted. John thinks it is very important to get a good night's sleep.

Having headed up the wooden stairs at a respectable hour, he turned off his mobile phone before he turned in. Incommunicado.

So with the rest of his colleagues roused from their beds and on standby, and Ireland's economic future in the balance, an executive decision was made by our leaders.

They called the police. Gardaí raced to John's house and banged the door down until a sleepy Minister emerged to be told the urgent news.

The incident was the talk of the Cabinet corridor during the week.

But it doesn't end there.

In the early hours of Thursday, when the Dáil finally voted through emergency legislation underpinning the guarantee, observers agreed that Gormley had a big sleepy head on him when he wandered into the chamber, blinking, for the final vote.

How observant. For while his colleagues spent the long hours between votes watching television or drinking coffee, John was happy in the Land of Nod on a pull-out sofa-bed in Brian Lenihan's office.

This was an excellent example of the Green leader making use of an available resource - poor Brian hadn't had a wink of sleep for two days and wouldn't be getting any that night either. Shame to let the bed go to waste.

Or else, with an eye to the Garda overtime bill, Gormley was told not to leave the precincts until business was completed.

Muffin break politics

A most intriguing little tete-a-tete took place between two controversial gentlemen last Friday at a very busy restaurant near the Four Courts.

Our spy, who was having lunch in Christophe's Café in Smithfield at the time, wasn't surprised to see former PD leader and senior counsel Michael McDowell arrive. The excellent Christophe's is a popular spot with legal eagles and court reporters.

However, our man nearly choked on his ham hock when, five minutes after McDowell parked himself at a table in the middle of the room, Libertas front man Declan Ganley came through the doors to join him.

"They couldn't have picked a more open spot. I left about half an hour after they arrived, and the two were still deep in conversation." The restaurant may be situated on Duck Lane, but this meeting was conducted in plain sight.

McDowell and anti-Lisbon treaty campaigner Ganley? That's interesting.

Here's a further report from the adjoining table: "I wasn't deliberately eavesdropping, but the tables are quite close. From what I could make out, Declan Ganley seemed to be telling Michael McDowell about the progress he was making in Europe." The duo must have made up since the Lisbon Treaty days, when McDowell vociferously denied he was supporting the Libertas campaign and giving them voluntary legal advice.

We can rule out food as a reason why these two political blonds were meeting. Rotweiller McDowell was content to lap up a cappuccino, while Ganley, who has been known to fly the Stars 'n Stripes from the flagpole on the lawn of his Galway pile, nibbled on a muffin.

Nobody can stop the music

Ganley has a full diary these days. He was on the Late Late Show last night, and last Saturday he was due to appear at a charity fundraising ball in Tuam. He had to cancel at the last minute, thus depriving his neighbours of a chance to hear his party piece.

Happily, guests in the Ard-Ri hotel were more than entertained by the two remaining star turns - singer Sean Keane and TD Finian McGrath.

Tuam native Finian, who knows no shame, was not in the least bit fazed by the thought of following Seán in the running order. With his trusty guitar and backed by a band called Dangermouse, McGrath murdered two ballads.

"I had planned to do just the two numbers and get off the stage, but I got such a warm response, I stayed on and did two more." The ball raised a magnificent €20,000 for local charities, most of which was raised in a frantic few minutes when guests rushed the organisers with fistfuls of cash, begging them to make Finian stop. McGrath - known as Whiskers McGrath during his schoolteaching days - is looking forward to welcoming Mary Harney to the Independent ranks in the Dáil when the PDs disband and her colleague Noel Grealish makes his expected switch to Fianna Fáil.

"We're a very talented lot, so she'll have to do an interview and an audition first," says the Independent deputy for Dublin North Central.

Raunch and romps await

After the week they've just had, don't you think our parliamentarians would have had quite enough of late-night shenanigans, heaving bosoms and intrigue? But no. A busload of them leave Leinster House on Tuesday for Ardmore Studios, where they will visit the sets of saucy period romp The Tudors and Raw, the raunchy new restaurant drama currently showing on RTÉ2.

Members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources will gather in The Jerry Bruckheimer Suite to hear a presentation from Screen Producers Ireland, the representative body for all independent film and television production companies in Ireland.

The trip has been organised to coincide with the second stage of The Broadcasting Bill, which continues through the Dáil next week. Among those who are secretly hoping to be discovered are TDs MJ Nolan, Noel Coonan, Simon Coveney, John Browne, Liz McManus and Senator Maria Corrigan.

Don't be surprised if you turn on the next series of The Tudors and spot a man in the background with dark glasses, grey hair and pinstriped doublet and hose. That'll be Tipperary's Mattie McGrath.

Jumping to conclusions

Massive speculation doesn't only occur in the money markets. Yesterday morning's Stephen Nolan Show on BBC Radio Ulster worked itself into a fine lather of conjecture after one of their reporters called to the Co Down home of retired loyalist paramilitary leader, Gusty Spence, and saw Albert Reynolds inside sitting on the sofa.

Reporter Kevin Magee described, in great detail, what happened when he went to request an interview with Gusty. There were two "official looking cars" parked in the cul-de-sac where the former UVF leader lives. One of them was a Merc, with a chauffeur.

The front door was answered by a "very well-dressed man". Kevin said he looked like he might be "a civil servant or a diplomat." Spence came out and asked if he could come back on another day. At this point, Magee looked past him into the house. And there was Albert. On the sofa.

The reporter told of his "complete surprise" at seeing the former taoiseach, twice describing the scene as "surreal". There was also a middle-aged woman sitting on the Gusty's sofa.

Magee waited until Albert left. Apparently, a man took a small suitcase from one of the cars and brought it into Gusty's home before driving away. "After they left, the two cars just melted into the Co Down countryside," he said.

There followed nearly 15 minutes of analysis, with the station's home affairs editor also contributing. PUP sources had been contacted, decommissioning was pondered, the name of John de Chastelain was invoked, diplomatic back-channels were discussed. Albert, for his part, hadn't wished to comment.

"Have we contacted the Irish Government yet?" asked Nolan.

At the end of the show, Dublin-based PR man, Paul Allen, solved the mystery, identifying himself as the well-dressed man and explaining Albert is his client.

He was visiting Gusty to gather material for his memoirs, which are due to be published in the new year. The two men held significant meetings during the early years of the peace process and Albert simply wanted to refresh his memory.

"What you're spinning about this morning is absolute fiction," fumed Allen, accusing Nolan of having "a history of winding people up". He also noted that the reporter concerned had a fancy motor. "I didn't know the BBC employed journalists who went around driving Mercs," sniffed the PR merchant, who drives a flash car himself.

Ireland richer than ever

The Workers' Party is on the ball. On Thursday evening, their head office rushed out a news release headed: "Karl Marx on the Current Crisis." The followed paragraph was attached: "The only part of the so-called national wealth that actually enters into the collective possessions of modern peoples is their national debt. Hence, as a necessary consequence, the modern doctrine that a nation becomes the richer the more deeply it is in debt. Public credit becomes the credo of capital. And with the rise of national debt-making, want of faith in the national debt takes the place of the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which may not be forgiven." Makes a nice change from George Lee on the Current Crisis.

Desmond's high price of access

According to the Channel 4 Dispatches programme, business mogul Dermot Desmond has paid £50,000 to be part of David Cameron's leader's group, which involves intimate chinwags at Cameron's home or elsewhere.

Journalist Anthony Barnett got this information from the UK's electoral commission's database, where anyone giving £5,000 to a political party is registered.

He says on Dispatches: "After painstaking research into who had given £50,000, I discovered some interesting names.

" I have got here a list of names of people who have given £50,000 to the Conservative Party. There are some very interesting names here, people from hedge funds, people who had never been in politics before, a wife or two of some foreign donors and some interesting names.

The first one I'm going to try is Dermot Desmond." (He tries and fails to get a hold of him) "Mr Desmond's office said they would get back to me, but they never did."

Marino-born Desmond, known as The Kaiser because of his luxurious moustache, must have high hopes for Cameron.

Undercover Taoiseach

It's just as well that Brian Cowen has decided to take a more decisive approach to leadership. At Thursday's CBI-IBEC dinner in Trinity College, where Brian delivered a state-of-the nation address, some captains of industry must have been wondering who this Mr Cowen is.

Because as they picked up their name tags on the way into the hall, one was waiting on the table for a Mr Brian Cowen.

That's right, he's the big chap over there with the Offaly accent.

Right time for comfort food

On day two of The Difficulty - as Joe O'Toole appeared to call it in the Seanad on Thursday morning, cabin fever was setting in around Leinster House. As the evening wore on, rumour piled upon rumour that at least one bank was going to fold regardless.

At about 8.30pm, word spread like wildfire that a emergency Cabinet meeting was taking place.

One journalist bumped into a Minister coming from the Members' Bar. Was it true? "Well, if there's a Cabinet meeting going on, it's happening without the Taoiseach. He's inside having sausages and chips."

The food in Paris mustn't have been up to much.

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