Miriam Lord: Frances Fitzgerald’s dog rescue tweet comes back to bite her
Former tánaiste’s heroic good deed in finding lost pooch turns out to be a shaggy dog story
Barking up the wrong tree: Frances Fitzgerald. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins
You go abroad for a few days over the Easter break and one of the biggest political scandals of the year breaks at home.
A former tánaiste and minister for justice, now running for election to the European parliament, kidnaps a dog belonging to another former tánaiste and minister for justice and then falsely puts it about that she rescued the wandering pet before heroically returning him to his master.
Details of this bizarre canine triangle outside Spar in Ranelagh’s Triangle emerged on social media last weekend when Frances Fitzgerald modestly tweeted to the electorate about her good deed in the heart of Dublin 4.
“Found this little guy at the Triangle in Ranelagh. Rang the number and returned safe and sound to its owner!” gushed St Frances of Lassie-si, adding giddily, “You’re welcome @SenatorMcDowell. I think that deserves a number 1!” (Although one of the young people on her team may have done the typing bit.)
The photogenic pooch turned out to be the owner of Michael McDowell, Seanad Éireann’s wandering political Rottweiler who would dearly love to be rescued by the kind voters of Dublin Bay South and returned to his forever home in the Dáil.
Unfortunately for Frances, Fine Gael’s frontrunner in the Dublin constituency, according to Friday’s Irish Times opinion poll, allegations that she was more a dog-rustler than a dog-whisperer quickly surfaced when a slightly peeved woman tweeted she was the person who found “Duke” McDowell.
“No you didn’t find him. I did,” Kelly MacKenzie informed the former tánaiste. “And you commandeered him for a photo op when I asked to borrow your colleague’s phone to call his owner.”
She pointed out that her hand was holding the dog in the establishing photograph.
Reaction on the resultant social media pile-on was less-than-pawsitive as the candidate’s light-hearted opportunism was gleefully held out as proof positive that Fitzgerald should be arrested for fraud and false imprisonment. There were some terrific puns.
St Frances of Lassie-si has maintained a dignified silence.
It seems that Duke McDowell is a habitual Houdini who has perfected his routine of hiding in the bushes and slithering out the front gate when somebody opens it. He likes to hang out outside the local Spar, which is very close to home. McDowell was having breakfast on Saturday morning when he received a call from public-spirited Kelly Mackenzie, who said she had his dog safely in her possession.
Escape artist Duke has an ID tag, a microchip and his owner’s heart broken. He is five years old but still looks like a puppy and he adores female attention.
The Senator dispatched his son to retrieve their errant beagle/terrier cross, now being fussed over by the Fine Gael canvassers who had realised his provenance. Former tánaiste Fitzgerald then rang former tánaiste McDowell.
My dog is currently consulting with his lawyers and will be making no further comment at this time
“I did warn her she was lucky I didn’t threaten to put it out that she kidnapped my dog for a PR stunt, but we laughed that off,” said McDowell. Soon afterwards, Frances tweeted that explosive fib which may yet result in a tribunal of inquiry should there be a lull on the judicial investigation front between now and the broadband tribunal.
No you didn’t find him. I did. And you commandeered him for a photo op when I asked to borrow your colleagues phone to call his owner.— Kelly Mackenzie (@kellyellen) May 4, 2019
As social media had a field day, Hugh McDowell posted: “My dog is currently consulting with his lawyers and will be making no further comment at this time. He asks that the media respect his privacy and the privacy of his family.”
In the meantime, there is growing hope that deputy Fitzgerald might use her unique talents to find Shergar.
McDowell’s pal, journalist Sam Smyth, talked about “the hazards of Duke” while writer Paul Howard tweeted: “Brilliant. The best story I’ve heard since a tortoise escaped from an exotic pet shop in Temple Bar and was rescued from the traffic by @Colmogorman.”
Duke, the handsome villain, is doing fine and plotting his next escape.
FG’s Michelle Mulherin gets her fair Cher of the limelight
Fine Gael Senator Michelle Mulherin has been treading the boards again, reprising her triumphant outing as Shania Twain in a lip-synch contest in Co Mayo.
This time, Michelle knocked it out of the park as Cher Mulherin in Knockmore GAA’s annual Stars in Their Eyes fundraiser for the club and the Mayo/Roscommon Hospice. She performed Cher’s hit Believe in front of a capacity crowd in Ballina’s Great National Hotel, with backing dancers from the local Foróige club racheting up the glamour for her raunchy routine.
Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary decided not to perform this year after his homage to AC/DC’s Angus Young last time out
The former TD won the competition last time out, but she was beaten this year by a troupe of Christina Aguileras from the men’s football team performing Dirty dressed in big bras and underpants. “They were very good. All dressed up – in a manner of speaking. They left little to the imagination,” said Michelle.
Fellow Mayo politician, Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary, decided not to perform this year after his homage to AC/DC’s Angus Young last time out. Instead, he joined the judging panel. After Michelle/Cher’s tour de force, he was full of praise and suggested she might consider throwing in the politics altogether and going into showbiz full-time.
Forget climate change – it’s nappy change for two happy daddy TDs
New babies for two rural TDS this week. Both arrived with impeccable timing on Tuesday, the day before their proud daddies were due back in Leinster House after the Easter break.
Íarla Joe Sherlock was born in Cork University Maternity Hospital to Máire and Seán, the Labour TD for Cork East.
“He arrived a week early, just after an acupuncture session. I suppose you couldn’t blame him for that,” said Seán, who is “absolutely thrilled and delighted”. Íarla Joe is a brother for Seán Óg (who is nearly two) and his second name remembers Seán’s father, the late Joe Sherlock, long-serving Workers’ Party and Labour TD.
Labour’s Brendan Ryan stood in for his colleague during Wednesday’s climate change debate.
“Unfortunately, he cannot be here because his wife gave birth to a baby this week, adding to the world population crisis,” explained Brendan.
Meanwhile, Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan and his wife Eileen welcomed Mae into the world at Limerick Regional Maternity Hospital. Mae, a sister to John (age four) is named after her great-grandmother.
“We’re over the moon,” said the TD for Limerick East. “Mae is the spit of her brother and I’m glad to say they both take after their mother.”
Varadkar does some airplane-pooling to offset broadband cost
On the heels of the children’s hospital cost overrun, Fine Gael’s reputation for financial prudence took a further battering this week with its €3 billion broadband-at-any-cost pre-election promise to far-flung homesteads around the country.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform may have issued strong warnings against embarking on its proposed broadband strategy, but the Government is dead set on ploughing ahead in the face of this unusually robust advice. Although the Department of Communications – saddled for years with this hairy broadband baby – thinks the plan is a marvellous idea.
Leo managed to cadge a lift from his host to the following day’s summit in Sibiu in Romania
No wonder Minister for Finance Paschal Dimplehoe looked so worried in the Dáil and at a strained press conference called at short notice on Tuesday evening. It was held in the Department of Justice (nobody was sure why) and, despite the hurried nature of the event and lack of advance information, eight glum-looking Ministers were in attendance.
On Thursday morning, the Taoiseach redressed the reputational balance a tiny bit by saving a few bob on airfares.
He was in the Netherlands on Wednesday to meet Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte. The two men get on very well and Leo Varadkar knows that Rutte has moved into a more influential position in Europe as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU stage. After dinner and discussions in the Hague, Leo managed to cadge a lift from his host to the following day’s summit in Sibiu in Romania.
The Dutch government jet is a very plush and swanky 24-seater Boeing 737 BBJ. We hear the Taoiseach was well impressed, expressing his delight with it during the day in Romania.
But then he had to slum it in the Irish Government jet on the journey home.
So the jet had to fly out anyway.
Welcoming “the three billion and broadband”, Senator Frankie Feighan from Roscommon put it all in perspective on Wednesday.
“As one fella today said on Midwest Radio, we spent €44 million on Easter eggs – on Easter eggs! – this year. And that’s two month’s Easter eggs for the next 30 years and people are complaining about it. So let’s get things in order here. The economy is going extremely well. And okay, we don’t like losing money or spending money or something like that, but this is an infrastructure that is badly needed by rural Ireland and I will not stand up and listen to populist politicians who shout rural Ireland is dead and buried and now they’re giving out that we’re not delivering. This Government has delivered.”