Miriam Lord: Incoming stork to crank up Leo de Janeiro party

Harris breaks news of wife’s pregnancy while Fine Gael colleagues hit Harcourt Street

From here to maternity: Minister for Health Simon Harris was spreading his own good news at his Fine Gael party’s summer night out this week. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

From here to maternity: Minister for Health Simon Harris was spreading his own good news at his Fine Gael party’s summer night out this week. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Although always pleasant of demeanour, we thought Simon Harris seemed in particularly good spirits this week.

And now we know why. The Minister was Health couldn’t help letting colleagues in on the good news at the parliamentary party’s summer night out on Wednesday.

His wife, Caoimhe, is expecting their first child and Simon was bursting to tell. “Don’t say it to anyone, it’s supposed to be a secret,” he told half the parliamentary party.

Which is the same thing as hiring a plane to fly your message on a banner over Croke Park on All-Ireland final day, only cheaper.

Congratulations to the expectant parents. ETA is early in the new year.

The news adds an interesting dimension to the Minister for Health’s role in successfully steering the campaign to repeal the Eighth Amendment. It’s difficult not to wonder what he must have been thinking during the various debates, public meetings and press events on the abortion question, when he was coming to terms with the welcome but anxious early stages of his personal situation.

Perhaps it explains why he was so knowledgeable and understanding of issues relating to early pregnancies and pregnant women.

It also means that the “I fancy Simon Harris” posters might have to be retired.

The Taoiseach was treated to a showing of one of them when he turned up at The Body and Soul festival in the grounds of Ballinlough Castle in Westmeath last weekend.

Barefoot Leo

Leo likes his festivals. At one point he was spotted walking barefoot in the grass, which is the thing to do at this happy hippyish annual celebration of the summer solstice.

On Saturday afternoon, he was one of the guests in a special edition of The Irish Times Women’s Podcast, where he talked about the recent abortion referendum, among other things. As Kathy Sheridan introduced him and talked about the part he played in bringing about the result, a young woman wearing a bikini jumped up and waved that familiar sign from the day of the count.

“I fancy Simon Harris.”

“Whoever thought Simon Harris could be a sex symbol?” marvelled his boss.

He later retreated with friends to the Absolut tent.

Brazilians – and Varadkar – head to Leo De Janeiro to celebrate

It’s all go in Leoland.

He may have had an early flight to Brussels on Thursday morning, but the Taoiseach was out socialising the night before at his parliamentary party’s summer barbecue in Dicey’s Garden on Harcourt Street.

The place was heaving, not least because it’s a hugely popular spot with Dublin’s young Brazilian community. They were in high spirits as their national team clinched its spot in the World Cup knockout stage with a win over Serbia on the night.

So the Fine Gaelers cheered on Brazil, christening the place Leo De Janeiro for the occasion.

Party chairman Martin Heydon organised the bash to take advantage of the lovely weather and encourage team bonding. However, the latest episode of delaying tactics from opponents of the Road Traffic Bill meant that TDs had to remain on standby in Leinster House as votes were called on various amendments.

A slimmed down Noel Rock told colleagues he jogged from the festivities in Harcourt Street to Kildare Street in record time. The TD for Dublin North-West has shed three stone in his local Flyefit gym in Drumcondra since beginning his new regime of “gymwork and a bit of a diet” in January.

Fiscal prudence

Back in Dicey’s, fiscal prudence was the order of the day for chairman Heydon, who put money behind the bar for the troops. He chose a pub where the pints cost €1.50 all night – which is the main reason the Brazilians love the place.

(Fianna Fáil’s parliamentary party, by the way, is having its summer soiree next week. Clare TD Timmy Dooley is in charge of selecting the venue but hasn’t told anyone where it is yet.)

The Taoiseach didn’t hang around for too long at the barbecue, but his Minister for Europe, Helen McEntee, led a large posse of TDs and Senators to the adjacent Copper Face Jacks. McEntee was also on Leo’s early flight to Brussels, looking fresh as a daisy at their press briefing later in the day.

Leo did the diplomatic thing at the summit when asked what team he would be supporting in Thursday night’s clash between Belgium and England. He said that as he was in Belgium, he would cheer for the home team. However, he pointed out that if Belgium won, England would “probably get an easier ride in the next round so perhaps it is one of those win-win scenarios”.

Belgian scarf

He wore a Belgian scarf which European commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker (fresh from his Dublin visit last week which he seems to have thoroughly enjoyed) placed around his neck after the country’s prime minister, Charles Michel, handed out some Red Devils merchandise before the meeting.

He managed to get the British prime minister to pose with a Belgium football shirt, which had number 10 on the back along with the name of their top attacker, “Hazard”.

Theresa May took it well. But, rather like her long-awaited Brexit White Paper, she didn’t produce an England white jersey in return.

Paschal Donohoe had a small request to make of Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
Paschal Donohoe had a small request to make of Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Confessions of a Minister for Culture

At the beginning of this week’s Cabinet meeting, just before Ministers got down to business, Paschal Donohoe had a small request to make of one of his colleagues.

He turned to Josepha Madigan, the Minister for Culture. “Josepha, will you be hearing confessions today?”

That got a laugh.

But not as much as the comment from the Minister for Justice, who was at the receiving end of compliments from the Taoiseach for his sure-footed handling of a number of recent projects. There was applause from colleagues.

But Charlie Flanagan wasn’t getting carried away by all the praise.

“Thank you. But I will not rest until Stepaside Garda station is reopened,” was his po-faced reply.

Everyone cracked up. Everyone, that is, except for the Minister for Transport, Shane Ross, aka Winston Churchtown. Winston has hitched his reputation to the reopening of the station, and has announced a number of false dawns in this regard.

No. He didn’t laugh at all.

Tweets, sweet and sour

Two tweets caught our eye this week.

The first, courtesy of senior counsel Bernard Dunleavy, provided incontrovertible proof that we are in the middle of a heatwave. He posted a photo of a notice outside the Barristers’ Tea Room Restaurant in the Four Courts headed “Warm Weather Warning”.

“During the current Status Yellow hot weather warning, the chairman has agreed that should members wish.... Jackets may be removed here in the Barristers’ Tea Room.”

The world is gone mad.

However, lest people fear the chairman of the Bar Council has taken leave of his senses in the heat, it says in small letters at the bottom of the notice: “As per the HSE recommendation.”

‘Trump Lite’

And the second was fired off on Wednesday by former Fine Gael minister for justice Alan Shatter who is not at all impressed by Ross’s judicial appointments crusade.

“Bombast & fakery is no substitute for analysis & facts. Shane Ross should stop muttering behind my back & playing the role of Trump Lite denigrating judges & lawyers. I challenge him to directly debate with me his crazy Judicial Apntmnts Bill. Enough of the cowardice! Woof!”

Easy there, Alan. Let the dog see the rabbit.

So what about it, Winston Churchtown? Are you brave enough to accept Alan’s challenge?

Grrrr!

A new question for political quiz buffs

What TD entered Leinster House for the first time 37 years after his election?

The answer is Paddy Agnew, who was elected to Dáil Éireann as an anti-H-Block candidate in 1981. He never entered the Dáil and held the seat until the following year’s general election. As an IRA prisoner he topped the poll in Louth, elected on the same day as Kieran Doherty, who won a seat in Cavan-Monaghan and died on hunger strike in Long Kesh two months later.

Agnew joined Sinn Féin in Dundalk on his release from prison in 1986.

He was invited to the Dáil by former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and given “a special welcome” by leader Mary Lou McDonald, who told the chamber: “This is the first time that he has actually been in Leinster House, so I am sure everybody will extend a warm welcome to him.”

‘Good man’

After the Sinn Féin TDs burst into applause, Mary Lou looked up to the public gallery where the former TD was sitting with his wife, Catherine. “We are delighted you’re here, Paddy. It took you a while but you got here in the end. Good man.”

Later in the proceedings, there was more applause – this time from all sides – when the Ceann Comhairle welcomed him to the Dáil.

Afterwards in the Sinn Féin party rooms, Mary Lou presented her honoured guest with the formal framed statement from the returning officer of his election to the Dáil and gave Catherine a framed copy of the issue of An Phoblacht which announced Paddy and Ciarán Doherty’s election as TDs.

Line of the week: This is from Michael Collins, member of the Rural Independents Group and TD for Cork South-West. Michael is one of the TDs trying to delay the passage of Shane Ross’s controversial Road Traffic Bill, which will introduce harsher drink-driving penalties and put learners who drive unaccompanied off the road.

Here’s Collins, protesting to a very fed-up Leas Cheann Comhairle: “I have not yet had the opportunity to be repetitious.”

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