Five Don't Go to Brussels: a Blytonesque adventure


DÁIL SKETCH:THE CABINET is going on a big work outing. All bar five of them fly to Brussels today.

Smirking Pat Rabbitte looked so pleased with himself during Leaders’ Questions yesterday we thought he was going to burst.

Leo Varadkar seemed happy too. It’s the Minister for Transport’s first ever trip on the government jet.

We hope it doesn’t all get too much for young Leo. Of course, he’ll be sick before the aircraft takes off, what with his excitement over the flight and because he’ll have eaten all the sweets and crisps he was supposed to make last for the whole day.

Ruairí Quinn is minding the shop while the others are away. We couldn’t imagine him joining in with the communal singing on the jet, so he’s probably pleased enough to stay at home.

Five Don’t Go to Brussels.

The other four in this Blytonesque gang: James Reilly, Frances Fitzgerald, Jimmy Deenihan and Alan Shatter. (Lashings of ginger beer in the bar, so.) For important security reasons, the Taoiseach won’t be joining the main group on the way out to Brussels because the Department of Defence has advised against it. It would not be wise for him to travel on the same flight as the Tánaiste.

This is not because Enda and Eamon would constitute a mid-air hazard in the event of a fight. Or that taken together, they would be carrying too much baggage. No, it’s in case the plane were to crash with both men on board, thus leaving the country leaderless and at the mercy of a coup.

Joe Higgins and Richard Boyd Barrett were looking particularly chipper in the Dáil chamber yesterday afternoon. Well, a fella can always dream . . .

A Government spokesman was quite clear about the travel arrangements last night. While “no specific threat” has been identified, Enda will take a commercial flight early this morning while Eamon is expected to board the Government Gulfstream at Baldonnel shortly afterwards.

This makes sense. We couldn’t have a leaderless country. What would that be like? Don’t all answer at once.

There was some surprise around Leinster House at the news that James Reilly won’t be part of the ministerial group attending briefings with European Commissioners as part of Ireland’s preparations to take up the EU presidency.

He’s the life and soul of the party. Róisín Shortall can attest to that. His former junior minister at the Department of Health slipped into the MLD (Maverick Labour Deputy) section on the backbenches yesterday afternoon, sitting beside Tommy Broughan, another former member of the parliamentary party.

It’s understood Dr Reilly is not flying today because of medical reasons: nobody knows the day or the hour when he might pull another stroke.

His ears will be burning this morning once the jet takes off and the singing starts.

Eamon will lead it off: “You should never throw James Reilly off the bus. You should never throw James Reilly off the bus / You should never throw James Reilly / For he’s regarded very highly / You should never throw James Reilly off the bus!”

Whereupon Leo and Lucinda will roar “give ’im a push!” Then, in a show of Coalition unity, everyone will join in: “Singing I will if you will, so will I / Singing I will if you will, so will I . . . ” Sure the flight will be over in no time.

Enda will be none the wiser. (He regards his deputy leader very highly.) He’ll have left at 7am on a commercial flight.

Big Phil is also going commercial.

That’ll please the crowd on the government jet. There’s a touch of the heave about them – and we don’t mean queasy Leo, who’s eaten too much in his excitement and thrown up.

Besides the Labour contingent – Eamon Gilmore, Pat Rabbitte, Brendan Howlin and Joan Burton – there’s Simon Coveney, Richard Bruton, Michael Noonan and Lucinda Creighton.

No Enda, no Big Phil, no Dicey Reilly – the Taoiseach and his two most trusted henchmen.

While the Defence Forces people may not be able to identify any “specific threat”, perhaps the coup might be hatched in mid-air.

Lucinda loves musical theatre. She’ll probably lead them in a chorus from Calamity James.

“Oh, the Deadwood Stage is coming to get Big Phil / Oh, the Deadwood Stage is comin’ to get Big Phil. . .” Ah, but it’s great to get away with colleagues for a day.

Today marks Alex White’s first full day as a Minister of State in the Department of Health, taking over from Shortall. Yesterday in the Dáil, the Taoiseach confirmed his appointment. Alex’s mother Agatha was in the public gallery to witness her son’s proud moment.

Sadly for Alex his line Minister is not among the Brussels contingent. Only for that he could have claimed to be in charge of the whole department today (Kathleen Lynch’s blessing notwithstanding).

Most of the Ministers fly back to Dublin this evening. Yesterday morning’s arrangement will be reversed, with the Tánaiste returning home by a scheduled flight while the Taoiseach, who is addressing a dinner in Brussels tonight, will enjoy the comfort of a far less crowded government jet for himself on a midnight flight back to base. Unless Ruairí Quinn has been overpowered and there’s been a coup. In which case Enda’s flight will be diverted to Knock.