No sign of pre-election nerves from Fine Gael at their think-in this week.
The top brass exuded a sense of quiet satisfaction, as if content in the realisation that a long-term plan is finally coming together. On the surface, at least, was harmony.
Although the motto of the Dunraven Arms Hote, where the Taoiseach rallied his forces, was a trifle worrying.
Cenn Nathrach Abu. Which means: The serpents head forward forever.
"We had a lot of enjoyment and bonding," declared party chairman Dan Neville as he brought the gathering to a soporific close at lunchtime.
Mind you, the think-ins aren’t a patch on what they used to be. If it wasn’t for the gallant media, there would hardly be any drinking at all. The FG bunch were remarkably well behaved – there wasn’t even any singing after hours.
When Michael Noonan arrived late to dinner following his afternoon appearance before the banking inquiry, pushy backbencher Derek Keating tried to start a standing ovation. But his languid colleagues, full to the gills, weren't bothered.
The Minister for Finance was – like everyone else – in very relaxed form. He was also central to an unusual example of the “enjoyment and bonding” which so delighted Dan.
It was around midnight and Noonan was relaxing in the bar, chatting to a few people, when we overheard a photographer hissing urgently over her rum and coke.“Talk dirty to me, Michael.”
We didn’t know where to look.
Whereupon the Minister for Finance leaned over with a leery grin and slowly drawled “Milluns . . . and billuns . . .”
“Oh Michael” she gasped. “Say it again!”
“Milllllluns,” he rasped. “And Billlluns . . .”
She was in raptures.
We’re not the better of it.
Speaking of money, we have a lot more of it now than when the coalition Government took office four years ago. A fact which Fine Gael is busy hammering home. Noonan’s millions and billions are stacking up just in time.
What will you do with the loot, Enda?
“Secure the recovery.”
And how will it be secured?
“By making sure the economy gets behind every doorway in the country.”
There is also a plan to give doorways to those people who don’t possess any at the moment. Action on housing is going to happen early doors, along with a number of initiatives aimed at easing the financial burden of voters.
The troops have been well primed to insist that any forthcoming largesse is about payback for a patient populace, and not populism before a poll.
They were like one big happy family during their workshop sessions, apparently.
“Very high morale” pronounced Noonan of his fellow TDs, senators and MEPs. “Very buoyant, very vibrant and full of ideas.”
People are always happy when they have to sit down for long periods and discover that their fundamentals are holding up nicely. And according to Michael, Ireland’s fundamentals are “positive” now.
Once the Government doesn’t start “exporting” the Dubs to Longford everything should be great.
This nugget came from deputy James Bannon, who took the News at One by storm when he declared that a revival of the rural resettlement scheme would not be welcome in his particular brass neck of the backwoods.
Nothing personal, no smears intended, but Bannon doesn’t want Dubliners coming down with their “criminality” and all. He only wants Longford criminals in Longford.
Hundreds of homeless families faced being “exported from their native environment in the city of Dublin” to a strange place called the midlands. This cannot happen, says James. The rest of his party wasn’t keen to discuss his opinions. In fact, most seemed embarrassed by the topic.
But Bannon wants swift action because he has heard that “they’ll be moved down the country by the Aw-hum.”
Whenever that is.
Meanwhile, the strategists who have worked on the election plan have produced a juicy carrot for the electorate. Michael waved it under a few noses for starters.
As it stands, the Government has restarted and revived the economy. The milluns and billuns are flooding back, growth forecasts are very good and jobs are beginning to ripple out from the main population centres.
But this is only the beginning said Noonan, boasting and threatening at the same time.
This year, in the first step, people will get a few bob back in their pockets. “If we get back in government we will take another step next year and another the year after that . . .”
And in no time at all, there will be so much “economy inside the doorway” that people will have to get into their houses by climbing through the windows.
How could anyone vote against such a prospect? Be warned: In the coming months, Fine Gael is intent on putting the fear of God into people contemplating just that.