Fine Gael board of trustees is no big secret

Miriam Lord’s political week

Shane Ross says he doesn't own a mobile phone.

Nobody believes him.

But the Independent deputy for Dublin South swears it's true. So it must be.

Not even close Dáil colleagues can contact him in a hurry. They must call Shane on the landline and either speak to his chap in Leinster House or leave a message on an answering machine. He's quite good at getting back to people – when he wants to.


The public representative, author and journalist may not have an instant contact number for everyone, but we note there is a mobile phone number available to business associates – it’s set out in public documents filed to the London Stock Exchange last year by an investment fund he chairs, right next to his name.

Never mind.

It’s just a pity such a busy public representative doesn’t own a mobile phone in this day and age because we would have called him up after his Sindo column last weekend with some helpful information.

Shane was writing about alleged political appointments to State boards in a column called: "New Faces, Old Parties – political patronage goes on . . ." drawing particular attention to a Fine Gael trustee who has been appointed to the board of Nama.

He tells us: “A call to Fine Gael last week about the identity of its trustees elicited a response that made the guardian of the third secret of Fatima look like a loudmouth. It makes you wonder what all the other FG trustees do in their spare time.”

So here you go Shane, here’s the list. ( Appointments, by the way, are in the sole gift of the Taoiseach).

Frank Callinan SC (chairman), Ian Brennan SC, Mari Hurley (the recent Nama appointee), Mary Hayes (who is a partner in the heavy-hitting law firm, Gore and Grimes and is married to former Fine Gael senator, Maurice Manning), former TD for Clare Madeleine Taylor-Quinn; John McHugh, a dentist in Castlebar who is close to Enda Kenny; Jerry Carey, a businessman from Little Island in Cork who sold his IBS print services company to Xerox for €21 million in 2010.

Also on Fine Gael's board of trustees is Carey's fellow Corkonian Deirdre Clune, who recently ran a very well resourced campaign in Ireland South and narrowly defeated young Simon Harris to take the party's second seat in the constituency.

Word is that certain Fine Gaelers in the rebel county are hoping her success in the European elections might lead to special preferment for Cork when Enda does his reshuffle. The name of rising star Dara Murphy of Cork North Central has been whispered.

Although what Simon Coveney in Cork South Central might make of this is anyone's guess.

Party secretary Tom Curran is also a trustee. Meanwhile, who will replace Frank Flannery, who stepped down as a trustee in March after all that Rehab unpleasantness?

What about Angela Kerins? WHIRLY WIND-UP HAND SIGNALS SIMPLY SERVE TO WIND UP LEBANON VETERAN This is a line we never thought we’d write, but we’re rather proud of the Government press secretary today. Feargal Purcell, the former Army commandant turned Taoiseach’s spokesman, stoutly defended his commanding officer in California’s Silicon Valley on Wednesday while deflecting heavy incoming fire from a forceful PR woman.

Enda was visiting Hewlett- Packard’s global head office in Palo Alto as part of his trade/jobs mission to America’s west coast.

As is the routine at these overseas events, the Taoiseach breaks off at some point in his busy daily schedule to have a brief word with journalists from home.

He was relaxed and in good spirits on this sunny Californian day in the swish surrounds of HP’s reception suite, a bank of screens flashing high-tech images behind him.

As Enda was answering a question about medical cards, a HP public relations woman began to tap the Government press secretary on the arm and make frantic whirly wind-up signals at him. It was time to move Enda on to the next phase of his visit, where he was due to tour the facility and meet the company big-wigs.

Feargal ignored her at first, then discreetly dropped back from the Taoiseach’s shoulder to have a quiet word. As Enda talked about Ireland’s corporate tax regime, she nipped forward to place herself between Purcell and his boss.

If the Irish press secretary wasn’t going to stop the Irish prime minister from talking to the Irish media, then it seemed she was going to do it. At which point, Feargal crisply commanded her not to step into the frame, while protecting the Taoiseach from further advances.

Enda never skipped a beat, oblivious to the minor contretemps happening to his right.

Purcell eventually wrapped up proceedings, the Taoiseach moved on and the event went swimmingly for all concerned.

Well, not quite everyone. When the VIPs departed, there was an exchange between the PR woman and a male superior, who told her off for not getting control of the situation.

The pair may have thought they were in a soundproofed room but they weren’t. The man explained what to do “when your interview gets highjacked”. (But it wasn’t her interview, nor was there any “hijacking” involved.)

He said: ”Always interrupt, always stick your hand in . . .”

And then, the best bit. “Get the principal into the building as quickly as you can so that situation won’t arise.”

That would have looked good on the RTÉ news: Taoiseach hustled away at speed from pre-arranged interview when asked a few hard questions.

Thankfully for Enda, Lebanon veteran Purcell was watching his back and prevented an incoming dollop of HP.

COALITION TDs FEELING THE PAIN It’s a difficult time for Coalition backbenchers still reeling from their election ordeal.

Labour TDs have a month of electioneering to endure before they get a new leader and deputy leader – that's four weeks of being overly nice to people they have no intention of voting for.

We hear Alex White, who is vying with Joan Burton for the top spot, spent much of the week trying to get over the trauma of his campaign launch on the Rosie Hackett bridge. Alex got a bit of a media savaging over medical cards and his role in Eamon Gilmore's resignation.

And in a strange twist Joan is coming over as a conciliatory Coalition gal while Alex is busy building himself up as a tough guy.

Burton has been portrayed as someone who will stand up to Fine Gael to the point of bringing down the Government. White has been portrayed as a ministerial yes-man for the status quo.

Now Joan wants to apply plasters to the Coalition’s aching corns and Alex wants to step on them.

Meanwhile, the outcome is of huge interest to Fine Gael’s wounded deputies as they need time for the Coalition to steady.

Some members are not happy with the “five- a-side” group of backbenchers. Members of the policy group wrote to The Irish Times last summer calling for €3.1 billion in cuts and taxes to be implemented in the budget.

Now that the electorate has left Fine Gael in no doubt as to the damage inflicted by widespread cuts, complaints by formerly gung-ho “five-a-side” members about cuts are not going down well with colleagues.

Everyone’s a bit frazzled at the moment.

KERRY IN UNITED PARTY MODE ON JOBS It's all happening in Kerry, with a post civil war Fianna Fáil mayor elected yesterday with help from Fine Gael, and Fine Gael Senator Tom Sheahan launching an offensive to keep Jimmy Deenihan in Enda Kenny's Cabinet.

The Minister for Arts is very definitely in the ministerial Departure Lounge with talk that he will be among the senior Ministers dropped by Enda to make way for some new faces.

But not if Sheahan has anything to do with it. He wants a united, all-party effort in the battle to Save Jimmy’s Job and has urged Kerry politicians of all persuasions to petition the Taoiseach on Jimmy’s behalf.

"Having a Minister at the Cabinet table is inval-a-ble" he told Radio Kerry yesterday. He was not being party political, said Tom, who was happy to recognise that "Kerry did very well" when Fianna Fáil's John O'Donoghue and Labour's Dick Spring were ministers.

*This article was amended on June 9th, 2014 to correct a factual error.  Fine Gael trustee Mary Hayes was mistakenly described as a partner in the law firm of Mason Hayes Curran. She is a partner in the firm of Gore and Grimes.

Miriam Lord

Miriam Lord

Miriam Lord is a colour writer and columnist with The Irish Times. She writes the Dáil Sketch, and her review of political happenings, Miriam Lord’s Week, appears every Saturday