Miriam Lord: Departure time for Enda and Joan’s gravy train

Recycled and rewarmed capital plan arrives from sidings in time for election campaign

“Bing Bong! We are now approaching Heuston station. Will politicians at the rear of the platform please move forward to the microphones in order to alight safely on the right side of the general election?”

They’ve started in earnest now.

Silly locations.

Silly walks.


Visual aids.

Fancy cakes.

Straight faces.

The Government embarked on a regifting spree on Tuesday. Enda and Joan gathered up all the shiny things they gave the country over the last four years, threw in a few extras, wrapped the whole shebang in nice paper and made a big deal of handing it over again.

Still. At least the environmentalists should be happy: reheat, reuse, recycle.

Some bright spark decided the presentation should take place in a railway station. This would provide the perfect platform, going forward.

“Capital Plan!” cried somebody else.

So they called it their “Capital Plan” and launched it in Heuston station on a strangely quiet and deserted Platform One. Strangely enough, the Opposition was not impressed.

There was a train and everything on the platform. It was empty, but the first carriage was done out in special livery which was a lot more arresting than the slogan chosen by the Regifters of Fine Gael and Labour.

“More Monsters More Problems” it said in big coloured letters along the carriage. It was far snappier than “Building on the Recovery”.

Forever and ever

People on their way to hear about the capital plan had to walk past the tagline: it’s for a new cartoon movie called

Transylvania 2

. It’ll have a short enough run compared to the spending plan, which is going to run forever and ever, because it’s already been running forever and ever.

Meanwhile, our real-life Coalition Two were somewhere in the distant sidings, preparing for their big entrance. There was a pop-up gazebo on the platform to stop their media audience from running away, stocked with pre-election finger-food and sweeteners in the form of mini-meringues and chocolate-dipped strawberries. Bingeing on the recovery. And why not? The Government has been doing it for weeks now.

Soon it was time for the main feature, which started late. Barry Kenny, the Iarnród Éireann spokesman sent out to explain over the airwaves every time something goes wrong on the rail network, looked rather concerned. He needn't have worried. Enda is incapable of running on time but he's the Taoiseach so ticket refunds weren't going to be an issue.

Eventually, Enda appeared alongside Joan, flanked by Minister for Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin and Minister for Transport, Paschal Donohoe. Brendan and Paschal were brought along to do the heavy lifting.

“Heuston, we have a problem,” sniggered some people, predictably, when they came into view.

The quartet waltzed out from beside the buffers and began walking jauntily along platform two behind a sign saying: “45,000 jobs”. The two boys held the sign at either end and then stood silently as the other two gave a very brief press conference before going off and leaving them to answer the difficult questions.

Wind machine

As a reward, we understand Brendan and Paschal were promised they could sit in a train driver’s cabin afterwards and take turns wearing his cap and blowing the horn.

Enda and Joan sashayed confidently to the sign saying “Platform One”, Joan’s hair billowing out nicely as she moved because somebody had turned on the wind machine prematurely, before the actual speeches. Brendan, walking beside his leader, was in a precarious position. Had Paschal veered a little to his left, the Kingpin of Public Expenditure would have fallen on to the tracks.

Some TDs, whose constituencies are set to benefit from the investment plan, turned up in the hope of getting on the telly. But Labour's Eric Byrne and Fine Gael's Alan Farrell were firmly turned away from the microphone area.

The regifting ceremony began. Enda sounded like he was auditioning for a job as a railwayman when he spoke of the need to "clear away the blockages" that are "stopping our country's forward momentum". Joan, as is her wont, didn't take the express route when she spoke, stopping at stations including the resurrected Metro North, maternity hospitals, Michael D Higgins, areas of interest in her constituency and Sir William Rowan Hamilton, the father of Irish mathematics, who has a railway bridge named in his honour above in Cabra.

Along for the spin

The platform was teeming with handlers and advisers. Even

Martin Fraser

, the country’s top civil servant, was along for the spin.

We could see Barry Kenny looking worried again. At this rate, if the platform party decided they wanted to go on a little trip, they’d need to add an extra carriage to accommodate all the handlers.

Minister of State Michael Ring deftly defied the ban on political extras by approaching the scene from the concourse end, walking down the middle of the platform while the cameras were rolling, coming to a halt behind the four principals.

He lifted his phone and took a picture, delighted with himself. “Did you see what I did there? Platform number one was above their heads: give us the number one!” he explained afterwards.

Paschal and Brendan took over from Enda and Joan, who had to return to Leinster House. "Commonsense, but highly affordable," said Brendan of the plan, apologising if some people thought there was a "boringyness" about it.

No. Just a familiarityness.

Back in Kildare Street, the Opposition remained resolutely unimpressed. “A wish-list,” snorted Fianna Fáil’s Seán Fleming. “A phoney plan.”

It’s all stuff that’s been promised before, harrumphed Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou MacDonald. “Almost the things of mythology, at this stage.”

Back at Heuston, just as Paschal was saying great things about the Dunkettle Roundabout, the Portlaoise commuter train rumbled in, the noise blocking out his words. They finished soon after that.

And anyway, all the cakes were gone.