Miriam Lord: Healy-Rae’s Delaney devotion reaches fever pitch

The Seanad is led to the guillotine as McDowell stages a judicial uprising

Michael Healy-Rae has been accused of a “craven leprechaun performance” for his conduct in front of the Oireachtas Committee by the broadcaster Ivan Yates. Video: Virgin Media, The Tonight Show/ Oireachtas TV

 

The bunting will be out next Saturday in Castleisland for the official opening of the much-anticipated Georgie O’Callaghan Park.

But will John Delaney, former custodian of the FAI credit card, be conveyed triumphantly through the streets by a host of hosanna-singing Healy-Raes as he processes to the Kerry town’s new all-weather football pitch?

If Michael Healy-Rae’s lavish praise for the embattled celebrity administrator at the Oireachtas sports committee two weeks ago is anything to go by, Delaney will be greeted by hordes of grateful locals and accorded the “mother of all welcomes” when he arrives in the Kingdom.

The Kilgarvan TD’s passionate words of praise and support for Delaney, who, sadly, could not account for himself at the time because he was cruelly gagged by a self-imposed speaking ban, were as surprising as they were out of place at a meeting focused on serious questions to do with financial governance in the FAI.

His stirring tribute might have left some listeners under the impression that the former CEO – this week he took himself up on his own offer to temporarily step aside from the newly created role of executive vice-president – goes around the country bestowing bounty out of his own pocket on deserving soccer clubs. In the same way, some listeners might mistakenly assume that public representatives who go out of their way to very publicly plant themselves up close and personal to a John Delaney/FAI grant must have had something to do with the awarding of it.

“At the end of this month Mr Delaney is to come to Castleisland AFC to open the new Georgie O’Callaghan Park,” Deputy Healy-Rae told the committee. “Forty-five years they wanted for this park to be there, and what I’m reliably told is that if it wasn’t for John Delaney and the FAI, that park wouldn’t be being opened at the end of this month. You will be most welcome to Kerry. You will get what I would call ‘the mother of all welcomes’ when you come to Kerry, because your reputation and your respectability will precede you down the road before you land and we will be there to welcome you.”

Some were still rather puzzled about that strong defence of Delaney ... was there a particular reason for such a grandstanding declaration of support?

That was before the fascinating detail of Delaney’s FAI credit card was reported by journalist Mark Tighe.

The astroturf pitch in question is in the grounds of Castleisland Community College and it was financed through a combination of local fundraisers, the Kerry Education and Training Board, a €59,000 grant from the Department of Sport and that welcome allocation of €100,000 from the FAI.

The prime mover behind the project was Georgie O’Callaghan, a football man to his fingertips who founded Castleisland AFC in 1973. He worked tirelessly to promote soccer in the region and was very well regarded within the FAI at the highest levels. He died last year and will be hugely missed next Saturday afternoon when the ground named in his honour officially opens with a charity match between a team of “Irish legends”– including Paul McGrath, Kevin Sheedy, Ray Houghton, Ronnie Whelan, Mark Kinsella and Stephen Hunt – and a squad of local galácticos.

Back at Leinster House, there was no appearance from either of the Healy-Raes for round two of the committee’s hearing into the FAI. This week’s main attraction was minister for sport Shane Ross, and there was no chance that either Michael or Danny would darken the threshold to say anything nice about Winston Churchtown.

Some members were still rather puzzled about that strong defence of John Delaney which made big headlines nationally and in Kerry. Michael had waited for hours to be heard – as a non-committee member he was well down the speaking order – while his brother Danny waited around for a time at the back of the room. Was there a particular reason for such a grandstanding declaration of support for John Delaney?

The politicians, it turns out, are taking a somewhat jaundiced view of the Delaney Appreciation Society’s unusual performance. Apparently the new local electoral area of Castleisland comes into play next month, with four seats up for grabs. Twenty-three-year-old Jackie Healy-Rae jnr is hoping to win a seat and join his cousins Maura and Johnny (who are both expected to storm home in their respective districts) on the county council. Jackie jnr knows the political ropes, having worked in Leinster House for the last five years as his father Michael’s parliamentary assistant, while Uncle Danny is also on hand with advice.

No doubt local Fine Gael TD and junior sports minister Brendan Griffin will be at the opening of Georgie O’Callaghan Park. Will John Delaney, who is sure to be warmly welcomed, be there beside him? And who else, we wonder, might be close by, basking in Delaney’s reflected glory and that €100,000 grant?

Speaker out of turn

On Wednesday morning, a large group of TDs and Senators went on a jaunt to Farmleigh House, the old Guinness mansion where the Government billets and entertains important guests. They went to meet Nancy Pelosi and members of the US Congress, who were midway through their trip to Ireland.

Bono and his wife Ali pose with US House speaker Nancy Pelosi at Leinster House in Dublin. Photograph: Government pool/Maxwells/Handout via Reuters
Bono and his wife Ali pose with US House speaker Nancy Pelosi at Leinster House in Dublin. Photograph: Government pool/Maxwells/Handout via Reuters

The Fianna Fáil delegation was led by party leader Micheál Martin. Among them was Michael Moynihan, TD for Cork North-West and the party’s Dáil whip. As they contemplated their meeting with Madame Speaker, Moynihan announced he was going to ask her to address the Seán Moylan commemoration which takes place later this year in the village of Kiskeam on the Cork/Kerry border. Moylan was a former minister and a veteran of the War of Independence. Mayo TD Lisa Chambers gave the oration at his graveside last year, and former US ambassador Dan Rooney delivered it in 2010.

The day begins with Mass and then a colour party and pipe band marches to the cemetery for the commemoration.

Michael’s colleagues expressed surprise. But Moynihan pointed out, in compelling detail, that Nancy Pelosi’s roots have been traced back to north Cork.

Photographic evidence of Wednesday’s Bono-worshipping outrage in the Dáil chamber have been surfacing in the social media feeds of TDs and Senators

Strange as it may seem, but there was a pocket of Pelosis in the area many generations ago. In fact, there were two branches of the original Italian family. “The big mistake is that people think she is one of the Pelosis from Knocknanaugh, whereas in fact her people actually come from Meentifluck.”

As the passengers in the minibus tried to get their heads around the news that Nancy is one of the Meentifluck Pelosis, Micheál looked a bit doubtful. He wasn’t sure if putting Ms Pelosi on the spot like that and asking her to speak at the Seán Moylan commemoration was a good idea.

“She won’t be able to say no” was Moynihan’s confident reply.

Then he told them he was only making it up and his relieved colleagues laughed and said they knew all along it was only a wind-up . . .

Meanwhile, photographic evidence of Wednesday’s Bono-worshipping outrage in the Dáil chamber (which then spilled over into the Oireachtas restaurant, where the rock star lunched with Ms Pelosi as the politicians lay in wait for more photos for the election leaflets) have been surfacing in the social media feeds of TDs and Senators.

Fianna Fáil Senator Terry Leyden, who pushed in beside the singer in the distinguished visitors’ gallery and took a selfie with him, is absolutely delighted with the outcome of his efforts. He has scooped the entire front page of the Democrat, a free newspaper serving “all the breaking news from Strokestown, Roscommon, Longford and Leitrim”.

There he is, Senator Leyden, staring out at traumatised readers as they wonder who the lad in the sunglasses is beside Terry. The answer is in the headline: “Stuck In A Moment: When Terry Met Bono.” The “exclusive story” is on page four.

Judge dread

“An absolute fight to the death between Ross and McDowell” is how one Senator described the ongoing battle over the Judicial Appointments Bill between minister for transport Shane “Winston Churchtown” Ross and Senator Michael McDowell SC.

The controversial Bill is Winston’s baby and he is determined to drive it through the Oireachtas before the Government falls and his legislation with it. Ross, who has no ministerial responsibility in this area, says there is a commitment in the Programme for Government to see the legislation passed, and he has been piling on the pressure in this regard, from the Taoiseach, through to minister for justice Charlie Flanagan and on to Fine Gael’s Seanad leader, Jerry Buttimer.

Shane Ross was spotted buttering up a number of Independents before the vote. There were also reports of him trying to win some Fianna Fáil Senators to his side

But the McDowell filibuster is still going strong. The Seanad had talked about the Bill for exactly 88 hours and 25 minutes, but on Wednesday it looked like the game was up when the Government decided on a vote to guillotine the debate.

Shane Ross was spotted buttering up a number of Independents before the vote, working hard to convince them to support the guillotine. There were also reports of him trying to win some Fianna Fáil Senators to his side. With Sinn Féin having struck a deal with Fine Gael on the issue, it looked like McDowell and his supporters were doomed.

In dramatic fashion, the Cathaoirleach, Denis O’Donovan, gave his casting vote to the Government when the first electronic ballot was tied 25-25, but in a subsequent walkthrough vote the Government lost by 26-24. In the subsequent postmortem, everyone wondered who had deserted Winston Churchtown’s side. But, in fact, the first vote was wrongly reported by the Senators acting as tellers. They became confused when the Green Party’s Grace O’Sullivan said she mistakenly voted the wrong way and requested, as is her entitlement, to have her preference correctly registered. But they counted her as voting for and against.

This meant that the chairman had to give a casting vote on an incorrect result. McDowell had won the initial ballot.

But Winston will not be denied. A second guillotine attempt is on the cards.

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