In awe of a ‘brave’ leader’s sanity

Enda Kenny is a talented, intelligent, communicative and brave leader – at least in the gushing opinion of Senator Marie Louise O’Donnell

Faced with a threat of excommunication, Enda Kenny calmly and succinctly told the bishops last weekend where to go with their bell, book and candle. (Or should that be bell, book and scandal?)

Senator Marie Louise O’Donnell was overcome with admiration.

“I congratulate the Taoiseach on the outstanding manner in which he is conducting himself at Cabinet level – politically and across the nation – in regard to the upcoming legislation on the X case,” she gushed in the Seanad on Tuesday.

“It is a most difficult, sacred, profound and individual area. He is articulating it brilliantly, and has remained sane, dignified, mannered and graceful, despite evident agendas, extremes of argument from pro-choice and pro-life sides and alarmist behaviour from some members of this House and the Lower House masquerading as reason.”


Yes, Enda is to be particularly commended for remaining sane. And she never even mentioned James Reilly.

But Marie Louise hadn’t finished.

“He has shown himself to be a talented, intelligent, communicative and brave leader – which I always thought he was. I wished to put that on the record.”

“After all, didn’t he appoint you?” snorted Terry Leyden (FF), ever the gentleman, for the record.

“That has nothing to do with it,” snapped Marie Louise.

“Not at all, of course not. . . . . It was effective though,” murmured Leyden, who reserved his praise for the role played by “the late great CJ Haughey” in the building of Knock airport.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s Trevor Ó Clochartaigh had noticed “a gaping hole” in the following day’s schedule. The House was convening at 12.30pm instead of the usual 10.30am start.

“I don’t see why we should have that type of gap in our schedule,” he complained.

Fine Gael’s Cait Keane intervened: “Eh, The Arbour Hill Commemoration?”

Trevor immediately apologised – in Irish and in English. “That was an own goal,” smirked Cait.

Seanad leader Maurice Cummins remarked: "I'm very surprised that a member of Sinn Féin doesn't know that we are honouring our dead in 1916 tomorrow morning."

Trevor shrugged. You can’t remember them all.

Ghostly comings and goings through the Mansion House

They've had a tough few parliamentary party meetings in Fine Gael of late, so TDs and Senators were happy to decamp from their rooms in Leinster House to the far more agreeable confines of the Mansion House for this week's meeting.

Dublin Lord Mayor Naoise Ó Muirí hosted his party colleagues for the evening and the mood was far more relaxed than it has been at recent gatherings.

Welcoming his fellow Fine Gaelers to his Dawson Street residence, Ó Muirí told them about life in the Mansion House and how he is beginning to believe stories about the upper floors of the Mansion House being haunted.

The father of three told how his two young daughters, Ailbhe (6) and Briona (4), came into his room recently after waking up for some reason.

The following morning, Briona was chatting away to her mother. Naoise recalled exactly what she said: “Mammy, when I came in to see you last night there was a girl with dark curly hair in the sitting room watching the television.”

At that very moment, Patrick O’Donovan put his head around the door. The baby-faced TD for Limerick has a head of black curly hair.

The room erupted at the sight of him and a puzzled and slightly worried-looking O’Donovan took his seat, wondering why his arrival had sparked such an outbreak of mirth.

At the end of the meeting, former lord mayor Catherine Byrne finished her contribution by saying she concurred with Ó Muirí’s assertion that the Mansion House was haunted.

She told them two stories.

One night, when she was in bed, she heard a baby crying. Both she and her husband got up and looked out the windows, but they saw nothing. The next morning, one of their children told them that she hadn’t been able sleep because of the child crying.

Catherine also remembered returning home late one night following a function. As she was halfway up the first flight of stairs, she felt somebody urgently tugging on the sleeve of her coat.

“I thought it was one of the drivers, telling me I had forgotten something, but when I looked around, there was nobody there.”

She ran to tell her husband.

”You look like you saw a ghost,” he remarked, when she raced through the door.

Catherine told her stories well. “The hairs were standing on the back of my neck,” one TD told us afterwards. So not that much different from a normal parliamentary party meeting after all.

McGrath ready with the jigs and reels again

Big night tonight in South Tipperary when Mattie McGrath comes out of retirement and returns to competitive dancing.

Mattie was All-Ireland set-dancing champion in 1974, and in moments of celebration has been known to break into spontaneous jigs on the Leinster House plinth.

He takes the floor tonight in the Cahir House Hotel in a charity fundraiser for Newcastle village’s GAA club and Comhaltas branch, partnering his niece Sinéad Grant. Sinéad is also a dancing champion and recently added an All-Ireland solo singing title to her list of achievements.

"She's only 19, so she might be a bit lively for me, but I've been practising hard at the routine" he tells us. "I don't want to injure myself like Shane Ross, who pulled a muscle playing tennis and can hardly walk at the moment. We have to be careful at our time in life."

Sinéad has devised a special dance for the event, which will see ten pairs of local celebrities strutting their stuff for the judges. Mattie is very excited by the routine, which lasts about five minutes and features step dancing, naturally, but there’ll be an element of jigs and reels too.

“I’ve been told I’ll be wearing a shiny white top and black trousers. Slashed and all. The top, we presume, as opposed to the trousers. I’m going for the Flatley look.”

The former Fianna Fáil TD turned Independent is slightly worried that his age might militate against his chances. He is particularly worried about the couple from neighbouring village, Burncourt. "He's a hurler and she used to be part of the Riverdance troupe."

Irish dancing is also on the mind of Labour Senator John Kelly.

His 12-year-old son Ronan is competing this weekend in the national championships. Last month, young Ronan won his third successive title at the World championships in Boston.

“I’ve no idea where he got the talent from” says the Ballaghaderreen based Senator. “He didn’t get it from me, that’s for sure.”

TDs lap up intrigue at INM

We see Independent News and Media intends to appoint a big cheese in Talbot Towers to oversee its three Indo titles – the Sunday Independent, the Irish Independent and the Evening Herald.

Why should this be of interest around Leinster House? Politicians don’t really care who is responsible for what’s in a newspaper – all they’re interested in is positive coverage. (As the events surrounding the Lucan Gazette demonstrated this week.)

However, what they do love is a bit of intrigue. And the rumour gathering pace this week concerns Fionnan Sheahan, prolific political editor of the morning paper.

Job vacancies, particularly those with big titles, are a favourite topic for discussion around Kildare Street. Who’s going, who’ll take their job and who might be shuffled up the pecking order to replace them.

Here's the scenario being put forward: Stephen Rae, current editor of the Irish Independent and its online operation, becomes editor-in-chief. This leaves his job up for grabs and the speculation is that high-profile pundit Fionnan is being lined up for the editor's chair. If that happens, Vincent Browne will be bereft. And the Oireachtas press gallery will be minus an energetic chairman.

But while certain politicians might be happy to see the back of the tenacious Tipperary man, it would be a bit premature to start cracking open champagne.

Other names include Shane Doran, back after running an INM title in South Africa; James Morrissey, journalist turned PR and spokesman for Denis O'Brien; and Frank Fitzgibbon, Sunday Times editor.

It’s not like journalists to gossip, but word is that Rae is hot favourite take overall command, with Fionnan holding the fort in the daily.

All fair in love and war? And Seanad politics too

A dignified little spat surfaced in the Seanad on Thursday evening between Galway Senators Lorraine Higgins and Fidelma Healy-Eames.

Higgins, from East Galway, had submitted a question for the adjournment debate on Yeats Tower in Thoor Ballylee, Co Galway. The building is “of special importance . . . which tens of thousands of people visit every year”. She said the tower is critical to the tourism sector in east Galway and hoped it could be reopened to the public.

As it turned out, Lorraine had to share her time with Fidelma, who is from west Galway, and who had, by co-incidence, put in the same question.

She felt she had to explain the reason for this, at some considerable length.

"It is interesting that both Senator Higgins and I tabled this matter at the same time. To give the background for tabling it. . . . The Minister for Arts, Jimmy Deenihan, was in Galway a number of months ago and . . . ." And on she went.

Higgins, who is a member of Labour, was struck by her Fine Gael colleague’s timing.

“Like the Senator, I found today’s scheduling interesting. I lodged the adjournment matter the day before she did . . . It’s just interesting.” Surely she wasn’t suggesting that Fidelma, who is one of Deenihan’s jogging buddies, got wind of Lorraine’s question and was stealing her thunder? Because that wouldn’t be true.