Rare sighting of Taoiseach’s knick-knacks

Miriam Lord’s Dáil Sketch

The Minister for Transport ’n Sport watched Leaders’ Questions from the public gallery in the company of a handsome young man in a snug white shirt and an impressive pair of biceps.

Not that we were noticing, mind.

The Taoiseach had met him earlier in the morning, wisely dispensing with his preferred mode of greeting (a ferociously friendly upper body thump). Instead, Enda took the safe option and kicked for touch by offering a firm handshake.

This was a sensible move.


For Jamie Heaslip, the courteous Irish rugby captain, might have felt obliged to reciprocate by returning the thump.

And Enda would have made history by becoming the first Taoiseach to take questions via a conference call from casualty.

Heaslip was in Government Buildings to help Leo Varadkar promote the Irish Rugby Gathering, which is to take place later this summer. Afterwards, he asked Leo if he could take a look at proceedings in the Dáil.

The Ireland No 8 had already done a tour of Enda’s office, even sitting in the Taoiseach’s chair – and just when he thought things couldn’t get any better after his selection last month for this year’s Lions squad!

Then it was off to the Dáil chamber in the company of Leo the lion, who is, in fact, a goat. Astrologically speaking.

Rugby is a very tough game. Jamie Heaslip demonstrated this yesterday morning by sitting through almost all of Leaders’ Questions until his stamina gave out in the face of Mattie McGrath on the fodder crisis.

Whereupon Leo shepherded him to the sidelines.

Enda meanwhile, managed to squeeze in the Wednesday morning Dáil session between his meeting with the rugby captain and a later rendezvous with the governor of Massachusetts and the president of the Massachusetts senate.

Gifts exchanged
This was a lovely event. Gifts were exchanged. We were invited to watch (but not ask any questions).

It was a tough call. What to do? Stick around for some scintillating debate on the Non-Use of Motor Vehicles Bill 2013, or nip around to Merrion Street for a nose around the Taoiseach’s private office?

Enda's Through the Keyhole opportunity won, hands down.

The delegation from Boston was duly received at Government Buildings and they were ushered up the posh stairs past the stained-glass window and along the art and artefact-
festooned corridors.

We scuttled up the back stairs (bare grey walls, grey carpet).

But we got there, just as Enda was welcoming his American guests into his lovely office. He’s off to Boston for a few days next week, where he’s guaranteed to get a great reception from everyone except the local cardinal.

But he’s used to that carry-on by now.

As surnames go, Deval Patrick – the first African-American governor of Massachusetts – couldn't have a better one in terms of wooing the Irish vote. He came bearing gifts, as did the senate president, Therese Murray, who is on a 10-day trade mission to Ireland.

The Taoiseach posed with them for photographs and the governor presented him with an engraved Paul Revere bowl from the people of Massachusetts.

"It's a mini-version of the Sam Maguire, " exclaimed Enda as he proceeded to tell Governor Patrick of Mayo's terrible decades of All-Ireland heartbreak and hope.

“It’s a gesture of encouragement” replied Patrick, sympathetically.

Murray gave him a lapel pin which is being worn by people in Boston to show solidarity with the victims of the recent marathon bombing. Enda resolved to wear it when he visits the city in a few days.

She also presented him with a coin commemorating the pilgrims' journey to America on the Mayflower .

The Taoiseach was delighted. He held it out for everyone see. "There's the Mayflower for you!"

His interest in American politics is evident from the memorabilia around his office. Actually, it’s not so much an office, as a den.

There's a bust of JFK on the mantelpiece, George Washington is engraved on a glass plaque on the coffee table and there's Enda with Bill Clinton, smiling out from a photograph on the wall.

As the Taoiseach presented Murray with an elegant Foxford wool scarf and the governor with a pair of cufflinks, we wondered where he's going to find the space to display his Revere bowl and Mayflower coin.

Family photographs
The walls are lined with lots and lots of family photographs, jostling for attention among the pictures of Enda with world leaders and celebrities. They perch on the ledges of the wooden half-panels lining the spacious room, fighting for elbow room with little bronzes of currachs and artistic crosses and all manner of gee-gaws and whatnots.

His desk is cluttered with files and yet more photos and souvenirs. In the middle stands a big homemade “Thank You” card, bright yellow with lovely pictures drawn on the front. Beside it is a multicoloured bouquet of paper flowers, clearly fashioned by the same little hand.

It’s a minimalist’s nightmare.

We imagine that when the time comes for Enda Kenny to vacate the Taoiseach’s office, they’ll have to bring over one of those Channel 4 hoarding therapists to help him clear the room.

But it’s a nice clutter.

And very Enda.

What does that tell us about him?

Haven’t a clue. But Leinster House will be crawling with psychiatrists and psychologists of all description next Monday, when the next round of health committee hearings on the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill will be in full swing.

They might be able to provide an answer.

If only they could agree on anything.