Miriam Lord: Rónán Mullen earns a standing ovulation

The anti-abortion campaigner gets into the Easter spirit with a charity sale of eggs

Senator Rónán Mullen presents an Easter chicken to Senator Michelle Mulherin outside Leinster House. Photograph: John Mc Elroy.

Hot on the heels of the cuckoo comes Rónán Mullen and his chickens.

It is a sure sign that Easter is on the way when the Galway Senator arrives in Leinster House with a large complement of laying hens.

As a long-standing anti-abortion campaigner, Rónán has always demonstrated a great interest in their welfare.

What that man doesn’t know about fertilised eggs you could write on the head of a pin.


He arrived in on Wednesday afternoon with more than 200 eggs to sell for charity - creme eggs, covered in cute little chickie-shaped cosies in a range of colours.

People in Leinster House look out for Rónán’s chickens in the run-up to Easter, so it’s no surprise that it only took him a couple of hours to clear the toothsome contents of his wicker basket.

"The chickens are knitted by neighbours in Ahascragh - led by my good friend Nancy Downey, who seems to have an army of volunteers behind her because she gives me more and more to sell each year. Selling is like canvassing. The first sales pitches are always mortifying, but after that it's fun," he tells us.

Forcing Irish women to travel abroad to access their chocolate sounds like a fair and sensible idea

We were delighted to take some off his hands and briefly considered dusting off that ancient joke about a man trying to chat up a woman in a nightclub.

“How do you like your eggs in the morning?”


But he’d probably heard it loads of times already.

Anyway, there was a much more pressing matter: the imminent destruction of Rónán’s constitutionally-unprotected eggs by selfish women mad for chocolate, followed by the inevitable opening of the chocolate floodgates on Easter Sunday morning, causing the abandonment of diets, mental fragility, sickness, an increase in sales of slimming knickers and the general breakdown of society.

In these extraordinary circumstances, forcing Irish women to travel abroad to access their chocolate sounds like a fair and sensible idea.

There will always be the ones desperate enough to do anything to get their hands on a Lindt bunny, but that’s their hard luck.

Surely this is an issue which the Seanad must address, waddling forward.

Thanks to his hard work and that of his neighbours in Co Galway, Rónán raised a handsome sum for the diocese of Elphin's Chicken Fund 2017, in aid of its apostolic work in Africa and Haiti.

There will be four beneficiaries of the money: the Franciscan Sisters in Nigeria, who are currently teaching children in a stable while raising funds for a new school; the Love of Christ Children's Home in Johannesburg, South Africa; Sr Mary Lynam, who is a Mercy Sister working in South Africa, and lay missionary Gena Heraty, who is working in the Our Little Brothers and Sisters orphanage, Haiti.

Another sterling effort from Rónán Mullen for some excellent causes.

At the very least, he deserves a standing ovulation.

Barry Cowen faces a water canon

Barry Cowen is opening a new constituency office in Edenderry at the end of next month. It'll be open every Tuesday and Thursday. He's advertising it all over the place.

Where can people find this office? Is it on St Mary’s Road? Colonel Perry Street? Sr Senan Avenue?


Of all the political spin joints in all the streets in all the towns in all of Co Offaly, Barry's walk-in bureau is on the wonderfully-named Fr Paul Murphy Street.

That’s where people should send their unwanted correspondence from Irish Water, should they ever receive a bill or a threatening letter.

While trying to save face after his blunderbuss approach to asserting Fianna Fáil's dominance over Fine Gael at the water charges committee backfired spectacularly, Cowen declared his party had ensured an end to the charges for most people: "Ninety-two per cent of people will never receive a bill again . . . if you ever get a bill, give me a shout."

No doubt all of those householders across the country stumping up annually for rural and community water schemes are going to do just that.

Meanwhile, Paul Murphy (the Solidarity TD, not the priest), disgusted by Fianna Fáil’s decision to flip-flop on an earlier decision to ban the installation of water meters in new house builds, suggested that householders who decided to remove their meters should post them off to Barry.

At this rate, by the time Cowen moves into his Edenderry office on May 31st, he won’t be able to get through the front door due to all the post behind it.

He was in flying form on social media during the recent water stand-off.

One of the more entertaining elements of the squabbling between the two main parties was the willingness of certain participants to air their grievances and moral superiority on the web.

Mount Street must be losing count of all the guidelines and protocols they have issued on the subject

Minister for Water Simon Coveney carried on a Twitter spat with his FF opposite number, each of them disputing the other's version of what sort of deal was initially agreed by their parties on water charges.

Cowen took the water biscuit with this brazen tweet on Tuesday, after stirring up 10 days of discord between the parties: “Key question remains what was the last week’s collywobbles about? The deal we’ve now got is the same as one we started with.”

He should know the answer.

Fine Gael backbencher Alan Farrell, who also takes a robust approach to politics, was incapable of ignoring the water charges scrap.

He took to his Facebook page last weekend to let fly at Cowen, in the process aiming a few kicks at the Offaly TD's brother, former taoiseach Brian, and his late father, Ber.

Farrell, who has form on the social media front, later withdrew the taunts, in which he accused all three of taking a populist approach to economic policies over the past four decades.

The party’s media advisers are not impressed by the social media witterings of its members.

Mount Street must be losing count of all the guidelines and protocols they have issued on the subject.

Just a year ago, they sent out a 24-page “best-practice guide” on social media.

TDs and Senators were told to “be authentic”.

“Don’t be afraid to be yourself.”

All considered, given what they are dealing with, it was maybe not the best advice.

At a meeting of media advisers in Leinster House on Wednesday, Barry Duggan, Fine Gael’s new head of communications, announced that the party’s press office was organising yet more social media training for parliamentary party members.

“And we have already invited a certain TD to participate,” he smiled, in what his guffawing colleagues took to be a reference to Farrell.

Not that it’ll make any difference. To any of them.

In one ear and out the other.

Leo Varadkar rolls with it

Leo Varadkar got a lot of attention the other week for his crunching tackle on Fianna Fáil when standing in for the Tánaiste at Leaders' Questions.

In the ensuing scrum, his little digression into Irish during the event was missed. It was just a cúpla focail, welcoming a group of visitors from Co Donegal to the Dáil.

We hear Leo is pursuing his Irish language studies very seriously now and is taking the Certificate in Professional Irish at Gaelchultúr near Kildare Street.

It’s a 10-week course run for civil servants, aimed particularly at those who are going for promotion.

This week, he informed the House of his shopping habits while answering a question from Solidarity’s Mick Barry about the free-travel scheme.

“If we are using taxpayers’ money, we expect to get something in return . . . And it’s not unusual, when you buy something in bulk. I don’t know if you go to the supermarket very often, but if I’m buying Coke Zero, I buy the twin-pack and I get a discount on that.

“If I’m buying toilet rolls, I buy the 24-roll pack and I get a bloody good discount on that too. And that’s how you operate bulk buys; you get a significant discount.”

Thank you very much for sharing that.

The birds and the bees

Senator Alice Mary Higgins got so passionate about the birds and the bees on Thursday that she ended up locked out of a Seanad vote on her own Amendment to the Heritage Bill.

Proving that she's a chip off the old presidential block, the enthusiastic Alice Mary was busy buttonholing Minister for Heritage Heather Humphreys and her officials in an ante-room as the bell summoning Senators to vote rang out.

The Bill proposes to allow the cutting of hedgerows from August 1st each year, rather than from September 1st.

It also extends the winter period for burning upland habitats.

Opposition Senators, along with wildlife and conservation groups, have strongly criticised parts of the legislation, as it would allow the cutting of hedgerows in fields as well as on roadways in August.

Alice Mary and her colleagues have done Trojan work on the Bill, and when her Amendment (no 62) was called, she rushed out to the Minister to elaborate further on her concerns about pollinating bees and the protection of wildlife.

Engrossed in her argument, she failed to notice the officials were trying to get a word in to tell her time was running out, and to see the ushers moving to close the Seanad doors.

No amount of rattling the Cathaoirleach's knobs could get her back in either

Once the doors are shut for a vote, nobody can enter the chamber.

When Senator Higgins finally realised what was happening, she rushed over and banged on the door: “Let me in!”

But nothing could be done.

She then sprinted to a second door which is reserved solely for the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad to make his grand entrance and exit.

No amount of rattling the Cathaoirleach’s knobs could get her back in either.

Finally, and with admirable stamina, Alice Mary charged down the stone staircase from the Senators’ entrance and up the rickety wooden staircase to the public entrance. But it wasn’t to be.

She missed her own vote.

Some Senators toyed with telling her that there had been just one vote in it, but they decided not to compound her misery.

Such were the numbers, Alice Mary’s Amendment would have been lost either way.