Babies are a hazard: just ask any politician at a photo op

Predictably, for Enda Kenny, Phil Hogan and Jim Bergin, their Dad-in-chief moment did not come yesterday

Annie and Saoirse Power (both 9 months) from Kilkenny and Noah Connolly (14 months) from Waterford give lessons in feeding to Glanbia Ingredients Ireland chief executive Jim Bergin, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan yesterday. Photograph: Jason Clarke

Annie and Saoirse Power (both 9 months) from Kilkenny and Noah Connolly (14 months) from Waterford give lessons in feeding to Glanbia Ingredients Ireland chief executive Jim Bergin, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan yesterday. Photograph: Jason Clarke

 

History is littered with case studies which make a compelling case for why politicians should steer clear of small children.

GoogleGeorge W Bush and babies’ if you want to see for yourself.

And yet, when the opportunity arises, politicians just can’t help themselves. Show them a red-faced, squawking infant, and they see not a public relations minefield and a giant, flashing ‘Warning! Keep Out! Toxic Substances!’ sign, but instead a chance to tap into that aura of innocence and hope, and to look parental and, well, normal.

If it goes well, they tell themselves, the photo will be publicity dynamite, a moment of natural warmth undershot with a dash of self-deprecating humour that will have the hearts of the mammies melting. Remember that moment when Barack Obama stopped a howling baby in her tracks outside the White House in 2011, and the YouTube video instantly went viral? That’s the moment they’re all chasing.

Spoiler alert: unless you actually are Barack Obama, it never goes well.

US President Barack Obama Makes Baby Stop Crying

Predictably, for Taoiseach Enda Kenny, EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan and Glanbia Ingredients Ireland chief executive Jim Bergin, their Dad-in-chief moment did not come yesterday.

The three men were in Belview for the launch of Glanbia’s new €235 million dairy facility, which will manufacture infant formula and nutritional products for Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Central America. At the launch, Kenny, Hogan and Bergin posed for photos while they simultaneously bottle-fed three adorable infants in a neatly synchronised move designed to showcase their softer sides and Glanbia’s irresistible and nutritionally-rich offerings all at once.

At least, that was presumably the plan.

Sadly, the result is a set of images which evoke the same kind of warm and fuzzy feelings as a Childline poster.

Let’s face it: staging a photoshoot in which two government ministers are shown formula feeding a pair of apple-cheeked infants, when the government has recently come under fire for its paltry (less than €100,000 a year) spending on promoting breastfeeding, was always going to be difficult to pull off.
 
The kindest thing you could see about these images is that they make a compelling argument for why ‘breast is best’.
 
To be fair to Bergin, he appears to have at least a dim notion of what a baby is.

Standing to his left, the Taoiseach, grinning with the slightly maniacal look of a man who has just heard the distant thrum of an explosion in a size 5 Pampers, has missed the child’s mouth altogether and is trying to ram the teat into her cheek.

And, to his left, poor Phil Hogan hasn’t yet figured out that the top needs to come off the bottle before it will work. Somebody really should have tipped him off that all newborns come preinstalled with an early warning system programmed to trigger an evacuation at the first hint of adult ineptitude, because – judging by the expression on his face – 14-month-old Noah Connolly’s system seems to be in full code red alert mode.

Meanwhile, Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney – who has three young children and is therefore presumably better versed in the handling of miniature humans – was at the event, but wisely gave the baby business a wide berth. (Lads, that might have been your clue.)

On the upside, the photo they ended up with is probably the very best they could have hoped for.

Let’s face it, put six loudmouth, messy and unpredictable humans of varying sizes together without any proper adult supervision, and as House of Cards’ Doug Stamper would never, ever have said: what could possibly go wrong?

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