Miriam Lord: Sinn Féin’s answer to St Francis of Assisi canvasses in Waterford

Heartwarming tale of a starling, a hedgehog, a badger and the local election candidate

Cute animal stories always go down well with the public. The wagging tail of an irresistibly photogenic terrier called Hamish and his solo train trip to the Big Smoke this week melted hearts and became the talk of the country.

Here's another tale. This time it involves a local election candidate in Waterford, who is earning a reputation as Sinn Féin's answer to St Francis of Assisi.

John Hearne was canvassing in the south of the city on Monday accompanied by journalist Sinead Aherne. The WLRFM reporter wanted to see how he was faring at the doors and speak to him about incidences of drug gang intimidation in some housing estates.

As she spoke to John, Sinead noticed he seemed at great pains not to make any sudden moves with his arm. Was he alright?


“I came across a little starling. I have him in my pocket” he explained. “He was after being attacked so we have to bring him home and mind him.”

The starling seemed very snug and comfortable.

“Previously I had a little hedgehog and I used to call him ‘Súil Amháin’ because he only had one eye – he was attacked by a badger and he got fixed up and he headed on his merry way since. So hopefully the bird will fly soon.”

Apart from rescuing baby animals (if he includes that on his election flyer he’ll romp home), Cllr Hearne says he prefers to canvass on his own in the mornings as it gives him more time to spend with people and find out exactly what’s going on in his area.

“It’s a people business and if you love people it’s a great business to be in and if you don’t it really is the wrong job.”

We hear the rescued baby starling was soon sitting up in bed and enjoying the birdie equivalent of a soft boiled egg.

“I put him in a cardboard box to keep him warm and left some food and water. I went off to collect the wife and when we came back a few hours later the bird had taken a bit of the food and was much livelier. We opened the back door and he flew away. We were delighted.”

Cllr Hearne says he still misses the hedgehog. He used to tap on the back door to be let in and tap on it to be let out.

“He would sit up beside me on the sofa and when I was outside he would stand on my shoe to get out of the wet grass. Because he only had the one eye he could only go around the room in one direction. The badger bit off a lump of his nose as well, but it didn’t seem to bother him.”

A former mayor of Waterford, John is a fisherman and has a boat called The Last Resort “because if I don’t get re-elected it’s the last resort I have”.

The Gregory deal back in the limelight

It’s 10 years since the death of independent TD Tony Gregory, who represented Dublin’s north inner city in Leinster House for 26 years.

He sealed his place in political history as one of the main negotiators of the famous “Gregory deal” which saw the newly elected primary school teacher pledge his pivotal Dáil vote for Charlie Haughey’s government in return for a multimillion pound investment package for his deprived community.

CJ Haughey was desperate to get into power and he struck a deal with Gregory, who refused to negotiate with the Fianna Fáil leader in his Gandon mansion in Kinsealy. So CJ came to his office in Summerhill.

When they reached an agreement, the two men shook hands and Charlie remarked “As the Mafia say, it’s a pleasure to do business with you.”

The government was short-lived and a lot of the deal went by the board, but it also delivered much needed assistance to the area.

The play charts the making of that famous deal and the face-off between a young, idealistic TD and one of the most dominant figures in Irish politics

To mark the anniversary of Gregory’s death a photographic exhibition on his life and work is opening later this month in the heart of his constituency. It was put together by the Gregory Group, which continues his work and is represented in the Dáil by TD Maureen O’Sullivan.

The exhibition opens on Tuesday, April 23rd, in the DCC space on James Joyce Street, which is off Talbot Street.

Veteran community activist Fergus McCabe, who was part of the team that negotiated the famous Summerhill deal, will speak at a prelaunch event on Wednesday and RTÉ’s Áine Lawlor will formally launch the exhibition.

And apropos Gregory, journalist and playwright Colin Murphy has a touring production of his entertaining Haughey/Gregory drama kicking off on April 25th in the Pavilion Theatre in Dún Laoghaire.

The play, which premiered last year to excellent reviews, charts the making of that famous deal and the face-off between a young, idealistic TD and one of the most dominant figures in Irish politics.

Venues include Laois, Ennis, Longford, Blanchardstown and Letterkenny.

Murphy, who is the brother of Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and self-deprecatingly refers to himself as "the ugly one", is a busy man these days.

His drama-documentary A Day in May, based on former RTÉ journalist Charlie Bird’s book on the Marriage Equality referendum, opens in the Town Hall Galway on Tuesday, going on to the Lyric in Belfast on April 11th, the Civic Theatre in Tallaght on April 12th, the Pavilion in Dún Laoghaire on April 16th and Draíocht in Blanchardstown on April 18th.

The wearing of the green (tie)

Kevin “Boxer” Moran is a man on a sartorial mission. The Minister for State at the OPW completed his second St Patrick’s Day overseas tour of duty this year and returned home determined to smarten up the ranks of Irish politicians and public servants who serve abroad in the duty of the State.

“When I got home, my son showed me photographs of different Ministers and diplomats at functions and we were all wearing different types of green ties. It can be a proud occasion for a lot of the Irish people living abroad when visitors representing Ireland attend functions. They like to see us spreading the good news about the country.”

However, green is “a very hard colour to get right” and if the politicians and people from State agencies were all wearing the same tie they would be sending out a good message about a united Team Ireland.

“I’m thinking green with something like a harp on it and maybe a nice scarf or something for the ladies.” Not only that, but visiting guests could also present their hosts with gifts of the tie instead of a bit of crystal or a book.

Moran has already pitched his ministerial uniform idea to the Taoiseach, who thinks it's a good one and he has passed it on to the Minister for Foreign Affairs for his consideration. Boxer and Simon Coveney have discussed the matter.

“ I know it’s not a big thing,” says Boxer, who has canvassed most of his Government colleagues on the issue. Just an idea to think about. I see people from other countries at events and they all wear a particular tie.

We hear the Tánaiste would not be adverse to the production of a nice tie/scarf (by a good Cork designer) which Ministers would then be able to buy and wear should they so choose.

Mad about Ivor

Belated congratulations to psychiatrist Ivor Browne who celebrated his 90th birthday in some style last month with an Indian-themed party at Rasam restaurant in Glasthule.

President Michael D Higgins and his wife, Sabina, were among the guests toasting the nonagenarian guest of honour who looked very dashing in a Nehru style jacket.

In deference to the office of President, the First Citizens were seated at "The Head Table" with Ivor and family, along with playwright Sebastian Barry and archivist Caitriona Crowe.

Hogan's stint as European Commissioner is coming to an end. He hasn't made a secret of the fact he is hoping to get the nod to continue on

Other guests found themselves at the Hysterical Table, the Don’t Call me Crazy Table, the Total Weirdo Table, the Demented Table, the Funny Farm table and the Completely Bonkers Table.

Among those attending was Darren McGavin, who was abused by former priest Tony Walsh and who says he is alive today because of Ivor.

It’s just as well the organisers placed An Uachtaráin at the least contentiously-titled table. Depending on where he ended up, Ireland could have been plunged into a constitutional crisis the like of which hasn’t been seen since Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh resigned from the Park in the wake of a former minister for defence calling him a “thundering disgrace”.

Musical chairs in Europe

As the Dáil continued teasing out how the Government might respond to the many challenges presented by Brexit, the Tánaiste was asked on Tuesday about protective measures for Irish agriculture. Farmers are very worried about the future.

In the course of a very detailed and convoluted reply (former minister for agriculture Simon Coveney could talk about farming until the cows come home), he reminded TDs that Ireland is “fortunate to have a Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development who understands the Irish agriculture industry very well”.

That would be Big Phil. Commissioner Hogan, who knows the EU ropes and would be well placed in Brussels should the situation deteriorate for the Irish agri-food sector amid Brexit uncertainty.

Hogan’s stint as European Commissioner is coming to an end. He hasn’t made a secret of the fact he is hoping to get the nod to continue on. Nominations are usually in June.

The incoming president of the commission, who decides who gets what portfolio, is likely Germany's Manfred Weber. Weber was feted by fellow European People's Party member Fine Gael at their recent conference in Wexford.

However, Tánaiste Simon Coveney might also be interested in the gig and former minister Frances Fitzgerald, now running for a seat in the European elections, is also in the frame.

If she were elected, and then moved on to the Commissioner’s job, former SDLP leader and first substitute Mark Durkan would be in line to take over as MEP.

It’s an interesting theory and one which has been also advanced where Sinn Féin is concerned. Sitting MEP Matt Carty is likely to retain his seat in Midlands-North West but he intends to run for a Dáil seat in the next general election.

If he is successful, as is widely expected, there is speculation that Belfast-based MEP Martina Anderson could take over his seat in Europe in the absence of a UK presence in the parliament.