‘Gets moneyyy!’ TDs grumble as sports grant news leaked to chosen few

Rivals claim Taoiseach was tweeting congrats to clubs in his constituency before deadline

Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran had two videos running on Facebook – one for Longford and one for Westmeath. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran had two videos running on Facebook – one for Longford and one for Westmeath. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

Friday marked one of the busiest days of the year for Ministers, TDs and Senators as the full list of this year’s sports capital grants was released and the rush began to claim the credit.

This event causes ructions among disgruntled politicians – Government and opposition – as accusations fly about details being leaked early to the favoured few, who then get to trumpet the good news first to grateful sports clubs around their constituencies, whose members may subsequently show gratitude at the polls.

Kevin “Boxer” Moran, Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, had two videos running on Facebook – one for Longford and one for Westmeath. He is filmed in various happy poses outside the premises of the sporting organisations in his constituency namechecking each one and then shouting “gets moneyyyyy!”

The funding grants are supposed to be top secret, only known to the Minister for Sport (in this case the Minister of State at the department, Kerry’s Brendan Griffin). The list was embargoed until 11am on Thursday, when it would be published online. But rivals have complained the Taoiseach was congratulating clubs in his constituency on Twitter before the deadline passed.

Meanwhile, a number of Government TDs were deeply unhappy when they discovered that first-time general election candidates were given the heads-up on which clubs in their constituency were awarded grants so they could break the news and bag some favourable exposure. The fuming TDs were blaming their Taoiseach, alleging he “leaned on Griffin”, got the figures early and had them sent straight on to the candidates.

Will Ross get to officially open his pet Garda station?

Speaking of Boxer Moran, we hear he was in Stepaside Garda station on Thursday to inspect the extensive renovations which have just been completed by the OPW. Boxer, as the relevant Minister, was there to sign off on his department’s involvement in the €1.2 million project.

The building is due to be handed over to An Garda Síochána in around two weeks’ time once the final snag list is done. But the OPW has taken down the barriers around the building and left the site.

Word is that  Josepha Madigan is also sniffing around now that the unveiling of a plaque is in prospect

Around the same time Moran visited, there were also sightings of his Independent Alliance colleague Shane Ross. Ross, aka Winston Churchtown, may be Minister for Transport but he has spent much, too much, of his ministerial career on a noisy crusade to keep his beloved Stepaside Garda station open for business.

Winston toured the refurbished premises – rewired, energy-rated, repainted, new car park, new roof – delighted with himself.

But here’s the thing: Who will perform the official opening? Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan is the obvious choice – he’s already done the honours in Dublin’s Kevin Street and in Wexford. And word is that the other Minister in Dublin Rathdown, Josepha Madigan, is also sniffing around now that the unveiling of a plaque is in prospect. And then there’s Winston Churchtown himself, who would have certain expectations.

The final decision on who should perform the opening would rest theoretically with An Garda Síochána, not a particularly comforting thought for Ross.

Is enthusiasm for wearing the poppy starting to wilt?

It’s that time of year again, when poppy mania takes hold across the water and public figures daren’t go out in public or cross the threshold of a television studio without displaying the mandatory emblem.

As businesses and organisations outdo each other with ever more vulgar shows of ostentatious remembrance – from poppy cupcakes to poppy fireworks and lapel pins the size of soup plates – a viral photograph is being held up as proof that the UK has now hit “peak poppy”.

Mortifyingly hilarious, it’s taken from a minute’s silence held before a Division One football match to mark Remembrance Weekend. The video is on the glorious Mascots Minute Silence Twitter account.

They immediately thought it was a photo of Neale and Frankie out canvassing together in the byelections

A cuddly mascot swaddled in a full-length poppy costume waddles awkwardly in floppy Mickey Mouse shoes towards the centre circle, where the two teams wait in respectful silence. The tottering mascot is led out by a soldier, clinging tightly onto his hand to avoid tipping over.

This picture has fascinated certain politicians in the Fine Gael parliamentary party, where two of their members have long advocated Irish people wearing the poppy to remember family who died in the Great War. Senator Frankie Feighan wore one in the Dáil chamber in 2012, the first TD to do so in 16 years. Senator Neale Richmond is also an enthusiastic poppy-wearer and has made his views known on the subject on numerous occasions.

When their colleagues saw the aforementioned image, they immediately thought it was a photo of Neale and Frankie out canvassing together in the byelections.

We regret to inform these deputies and senators (if they can stop laughing for a second) that the picture in question was taken in 2017.

But it was an understandable mistake.

No doubting this person’s commitment to wearing the poppy
No doubting this person’s commitment to wearing the poppy

Getting a new Green Isle Gang together

Canvassing instructions and directions were issued at this week’s Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting for members taking to the byelection trail. Eoghan Murphy informed the room that the canvass team for Emer Higgins, their candidate in Dublin Mid West (MEP Frances Fitzgerald’s old seat), would be meeting up at 5pm at the Green Isle Hotel.

The Housing and Local Government Minister then asked if everyone knew how to get there.

There was silence. Not because everyone knew how to get there (which they most likely did), but because Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton was in the room. The hotel is where leadership hopeful Bruton and his hapless “Green Isle Gang” held a secret meeting to plan their heave against Enda Kenny in 2010, only to be rumbled by RTÉ’s Valerie Cox as they sidled in.

It didn’t end well.

TDs miffed as one door opens and another one closes

There was disappointment last month when Extinction Rebellion protests led to the cancellation of the Open House event in Leinster House, particularly as the building was open again following a lengthy period of restoration and conservation.

The schedule was rejigged, with two Saturdays set aside this month for a “Return to the House”. The second one is today and guests will get to tour the Oireachtas complex and see the Dáil and Seanad chambers. They will, of course, be deserted, adding a nice touch of authenticity to the proceedings.

A few slots are still available. People might be lucky if they are passing in Kildare Street and chance their arm.

For those already booked, strolling actors delivering recitations from historical figures will augment the musical entertainment, and an exhibition of great images from the last 100 years will be on display.

And they will get to see the lovely Garden Ceremonial Room, which is located off the main hall and opens onto the entrance facing Merrion Street. This is the entrance used by VIPs when they visit.

Some TDs and Senators are miffed that two particular VIPs possess a permanent golden key

Apparently, this room, with its magnificent chandelier and ornate plasterwork, looks stunning after the OPW refurbishment. But we wouldn’t know, because the powers-that-be have decreed it must be reserved for dignitaries such as heads of state and the like. The main doors on the Merrion Street side now remain closed while the door into the main lobby is also forbiddingly shut.

This development is a major source of irritation to workers – elected or otherwise – in Leinster House. Closing this lovely bright room has blocked off the direct route from Kildare Street through to Merrion Street which has been in routine use for as long as anyone can remember.

But that isn’t the main bone of contention. Whatever about rolling out the red carpet for the arrival or the Sheik of Araby or the Queen of Sheba and conducting them through a reception room uncontaminated by the germs of the working class, some TDs and Senators are miffed that two particular VIPs possess a permanent golden key.

While they must use the side entrances along with the unelected unwashed, the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil and the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad are free to process in all their pomp through the ceremonial entrance should they so desire.

Imagine the pain this is causing their fellow politicians, forced to use the tradeswoman’s entrance while that other pair are driven to the foot of the grand granite steps whereupon a liveried hireling (a put-upon usher) shimmers forth to do the unlocking and locking so their Lordships can freely pass.

Upstairs Downstairs has been mentioned. And not in a nice way.

Leo crushes it with off-the-cuff leadership lesson

The Taoiseach welcomed a group from the Massachusetts -based International Emergency Department Leadership Institution (IEDLI) to Leinster House recently. The IEDLI held its leadership course in Dublin this year, with delegates attending from the USA, Europe and the Middle East.

They included Ahmad Jamal, a consultant in emergency medicine at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. Mr Jamal, who ran for a place on the Fine Gael National Executive last year and is married to Meath county councillor Suzanne Jamal, organised a tour of the Dáil for the participants and asked Leo to drop by.

The Taoiseach duly obliged. He told the doctors he is always reluctant to speak to others about leadership, but he gave it a go.

“You can think you have all the answers, but it is only when you are tested that you really find out what kind of leader you are. I suppose I’m a little different as Taoiseach in that I trained first to be a medical doctor before I became a politician. I worked in hospitals and in emergency wards, in stressful and pressurised situations.

Leadership is also about living with your mistakes, learning from them, and moving on

“I think my experience as a doctor has helped me in politics. I’m often at my calmest – at least on the outside – when things are at their worst. My training kicks in and I remember that you have to be able to step back from a problem and view it logically and then try and solve it, rather than rushing in and making a bad decision.

“I don’t get everything right – no politician does. Leadership is about making the big decisions, under pressure, with the available evidence you have, when often you have to choose between various options, none of which are perfect.

“Leadership is also about living with your mistakes, learning from them, and moving on. The author of Moby Dick once wrote that failure is the test of greatness. If you have never failed, then you have never really been tested, and so it doesn’t mean anything. All leaders make mistakes. The best learn from them, and they don’t let it stop them making the big decisions. They keep putting themselves forward to be tested. That, to me, is leadership.”

Here endeth the lesson.