Miriam Lord: Kelly talks up baths after pouring EU gravy

Anger as TDs are convinced FAI’s John Delaney was canvassing for his pal Alan Kelly

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly: said  that if John Delaney wanted the people of Tipperary to vote for him, that was fine. But to say he was “actively canvassing” would be stretching it. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly: said that if John Delaney wanted the people of Tipperary to vote for him, that was fine. But to say he was “actively canvassing” would be stretching it. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Look. We’re all men and women of the world. We’re all grown-ups here.

What a man decides to do in his private time is his own business. As long as it doesn’t frighten the horses, upset the children or ruin the soft furnishings, let him at it.

Contrary to what some people might say, canvassing regularly for Alan Kelly will not make a person – be they a noted singer of republican ballads or the head of a major sporting organisation – go blind. Although old wives’ tales still abound where this sort of carry-on is concerned.

A Mr M McGrath, from Tipperary, recently called for immediate action to curb the practice. “Studies carried out in Alabama for an institute of renown have shown that people can lose their marbles if they give into their urges to canvass for Kelly,” he said. “It is highly unusual and inappropriate.”

Reports that John Delaney, boss of the Football Association of Ireland and well-known shrinking violet, spent a day last weekend canvassing for his fellow beacon of humility, Alan Kelly, shocked conservative souls in Leinster House.

Some observers decided to give Leader’s Questions a miss on Tuesday in order to see what Kelly might have to say on the issue. A number of his colleagues had already danced around this delicate subject, while Opposition TDs were positively scathing when they heard the highly salaried chief executive of a national sporting association was caught openly canvassing for the Minister during daylight hours in Tipperary town.

Launch

They were giving out millions for various capital works, such as a county library in Ennis, Co Clare (€1 million); an urban centre project for Limerick (€4.1 million); the redevelopment of Mallow Town Hall in Cork as a cultural centre (€1 million); enhancement to Mullingar town centre (€1.5 million) and a major plan to help bats in Dún Laoghaire (€1.12 million). The bats will be getting their own pool, jetty and cycle path.

At least, that’s what Alan Kelly said. However, in an unfortunate turn of events for the south Co Dublin mammals, when people perused the written details, it turned out that Kelly was actually referring to the “baths”.

Four Ministers, all very busy people, reluctantly attended the announcement of the many grants and the Minister for the Environment presided over the ceremonial pouring of the gravy. It’s not like he was required in the chamber, where the sole topic under discussion was an issue under the remit of his own department: the homeless crisis.

Enda had it all squared off, with facts and figures about how much has and will be spent and how much will be built by the local authorities in the near future. They “have been given their money and instructions” declared the Taoiseach, who expects to see homes springing out of the ground in no time.

The Opposition laughed at him.

But back in Government Buildings, everyone was smiling. In fact, Alan Kelly couldn’t stop smiling and chuckling as his colleagues followed him to the podium to savour the aroma rising from the EU gravy. The first slice of grants amounts to €40 million, and there’s more to come.

Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys was there because the projects will “enhance the heritage of our towns and cities.” Paschal Donohoe was there because he is the Minister for Transport and there will be “sustainable transport measures being funded”.

Paudie Coffey, who is Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Housing, just had to talk about the wonderful projects slated for Waterford (€5 million), which happens to his constituency.

The Ministers will have been most gratified by the media turnout for this latest Government good-news gig.

However, the reason for the greater than usual interest lay in the presence of Alan Kelly and his weekend skite around the football clubs of Tipp with John Delaney. They finished their bout of non-canvassing (according to the Minister) with an interview on local radio.

Delaney was keen to point out to the listeners that “this Government has been very good in terms of sports funding.” And as for his Kelly, “it’s very important to keep a Minister in your own county”.

Kelly, who was also in the Tipperary Mid-West studio, was in full agreement with his pal. “I’d echo what John said: it’s important to have someone at the top table in the Cabinet.”

But there was anger among TDs who have complained of “inappropriate” behaviour by the boss of a partly publicly funded major sports organisation. They are convinced Delaney was on the campaign trail with his friend.

Kelly said on Tuesday that if Delaney wanted the people of Tipperary to vote for him, that was fine. But to say he was “actively canvassing” would be stretching it. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to say that” he sniffed. “What somebody does in their own private life is their own business.”

Quite right. Nothing grubby about it at all.