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Miriam Lord’s Week: No regrets on the menu as Leo hosts last supper for Cabinet colleagues

Clonakilty black pudding was nod to Cork contingent, and Wicklow lamb was for Greystones boy Simon Harris, but former taoiseach played it safe with dessert

Leo Varadkar hosted a farewell dinner for his Cabinet colleagues and their partners in Farmleigh House on Monday night.

On the eve of his departure from office, the former taoiseach toasted the incoming Taoiseach at what we hear was a low-key and somewhat emotional last supper for Leo as he bade farewell to life in Government Buildings and seven years in Cabinet.

Also present was the Government Sec Gen, John Callinan.

Leo chose the menu.


The starter was Clonakilty black pudding – for the Cork contingent of Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Minister for Finance Michael McGrath.

Main course had to be Wicklow lamb for Greystones boy Simon Harris.

He decided to play it safe with the choice of dessert, opting for Wexford raspberries.

Said he didn’t want any puddings with a Dalkey, Limerick or Mullingar connection as it might have influenced Simon’s thinking on ministerial appointments.

The wine was a Bordón Rioja, chosen in honour of the incoming Taoiseach’s co-chief of staff, Sarah Bardon.

Sarah used to be a valued Irish Times colleague until she was poached by Simon Harris, who knows a good egg when he sees one, damn him.

At the end of a long day on Tuesday, when Varadkar took a back seat and Harris moved centre stage, the Cabinet returned to the Phoenix Park once more, but this time to Áras an Uachtaráin. The cast was almost the same, with just two changes: Limerick’s Patrick O’Donovan and Westmeath’s Peter Burke slotting in for Leo and Simon Coveney.

On the way back from the Á the Cabinet stopped off at Ryan’s pub in Parkgate Street for a pint.

On Wednesday, a smiling Leo Varadkar joined his colleagues on the backbenches. He went to the canteen for lunch, taking his tray and place in the queue with everyone else.

Taoiseach Harris, meanwhile, came in for his breakfast. We’ll see how long that lasts.

On Friday night, Leo threw a party for members of his team and supporters in the home he shares in Portobello with partner Matt.

Humphreys’ hectic week

Fine Gael’s new deputy leader was disappointed she had to miss this year’s ardfheis, but not that disappointed.

She booked her weekend off in early April long before Leo Varadkar decided to make his shock exit as taoiseach and party leader. And there was no way she was going to miss her daughter’s wedding and the day-after party for a Friday and Saturday at the Fine Gael ardfheis.

Heather Humphreys may be a Government Minister but that doesn’t mean she’s entirely mad.

The TD for Cavan-Monaghan chose an elegant mother-of-the-bride outfit by Irish designer Helen McAlinden for Tara’s big day. It was a fitted dress in a subtle shade of lime, with a wide V-neckline, detachable belt and pencil skirt. Most important of all, it had pockets. She teamed it with a soft black stole and pearls.

The much sought-after Monaghan-based milliner Alison McNally, of Hats Off Ally, created a fascinator featuring hand-cut and dyed feathers in pistachio and cream with beaded pearl accents.

Tara Humphreys married Gerard McGovern from Aughawillan in Co Leitrim and their wedding reception was held across the border from Monaghan, in Leitrim’s Lough Rynn Castle.

And then the wedding continued into the next day with the after-wedding party.

On Monday night, the Minister for Social Protection was back in Dublin for Leo’s soiree in Farmleigh House. We had hoped she might wear her wedding rig-out to the dinner to get the full value out of it, but we hear she didn’t.

The Cabinet could probably have done with a few pistachio and pearl fascinators to lighten the mood.

Then on Tuesday, she nominated the boy Harris for the job of Taoiseach.

She must be shattered.

Endagram from NZ

Last weekend’s big screen appearance by Enda Kenny went down a storm with nostalgic Blueshirts at their ardfheis in Galway.

It was an unexpected cameo from the former Fine Gael leader who is clearly thrilled by his erstwhile protege’s rapid advance to the top job.

In 2011, when Enda led the party back to power after almost 15 years on the Opposition benches, he chose Simon Harris to nominate him as Taoiseach. The 24-year-old Baby of the House delivered his maiden speech on the first day of the 31st Dáil and he hasn’t looked back.

(Fianna Fáil’s James O’Connor, who won his seat in Cork East in 2020 aged 22, holds the title now.)

Saturday evening’s Endagram was delivered with the usual gusto: “Rise up!” “We did it before, let’s do it again!” “Join the Harris juggernaut!”

Apparently the video was Enda’s idea as he has business engagements in New Zealand and was unable to attend the new leader’s inaugural keynote address. “He is genuinely very proud of Simon and he thinks he has what it takes,” said a former colleague.

Enda, who is a handy enough golfer, didn’t come straight back to Mayo after his sojourn on the other side of the world. He left New Zealand this week and flew to Augusta in Georgia for the Masters.

One of the many odd rules at the Augusta National Golf Club is the ban on mobile phones – even if they are museum-piece Nokias.

Patrons are not allowed to run on the course so they resort to race-walking to the best vantage points around the course when the gates open in the morning. That should be no problem to Enda.

Sitting on the grass is not allowed, so a trip to the Masters might not suit the other former FG taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.

Sunbathing is also forbidden. See above.

Caps cannot be worn backwards.

But Enda only does this when he’s out for a schpin on the bike.

Surviving nine taoisigh

With all the hullabaloo over Leo stepping out and Simon stepping in, we forgot to mention another departure from Leinster House, this time from Fianna Fáil.

Not from the political ranks, though. Margaret Callaghan was already working in Leinster House before the current and previous taoisigh were even born. She joined the FF secretarial pool 41 years ago, in 1983. She started work when Charlie Haughey was taoiseach and finished up on the day Leo Varadkar resigned.

That’s a working life spanning nine taoisigh, which is how time is calculated in Kildare Street.

An extremely popular presence in Leinster House down through the decades, Margaret, who is from Drumcondra in Dublin, worked for many ministers, TDs and senators over the years.

“I can’t be mentioning names or anything but all I can say is that that woman deserves a medal,” said a colleague.

There was a going-away do in the Dáil bar and party leader Micheál Martin arrived with a large bouquet of flowers, a card and a speech.

“Margaret was always in good humour, no matter what,” he tells us. “And after surviving 40 years in Leinster House she deserves a very happy retirement. I’m looking forward to catching up with her at the ardfheis.”

Don’t go, Margaret. Forty years, Margaret. Don’t go!

The Spanish PM and the bean an tí

The Taoiseach and the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, had a lot to talk about when they met in Government Buildings this week.

Top of the agenda was a discussion around the two nations’ “joint view in relation to the need to recognise the state of Palestine”, said Harris.

The two leaders first met on Thursday in Brussels and Warsaw.

Then it seems Simon came home from his travels with a giant Toblerone and the Spanish PM.

After their discussions on Friday, the Taoiseach was able to give Sánchez news of his former bean an tí in Dublin when he stayed here over 30 years ago.

A lot of people have sent messages congratulating Simon Harris on his elevation and wishing him well. This one came in to Government Buildings while he was preparing to meet his Spanish counterpart.

“Congratulations on being our new Taoiseach. I am writing this on behalf of my mum Breda Clarke. Pedro Sánchez stayed in our home in Dublin as a teenager to learn English. My mam and family have fond memories of this. My mam was very proud to see him do so well and would love to tell him this.

Could you pass this on to Pedro, please? It would make her very happy.

Kind regards ...”

The message was duly passed on to the delighted Sánchez, who speaks excellent English.

Well done, Breda.

Brexit book beguiles the Blueshirts

Almost two decades ago, Irish Times political columnist Stephen Collins stepped off the Dart at Westland Row on his way to the Dáil and was startled by a callow youth who bounded up and introduced himself as a new intern at Leinster House.

It was none other than Simon Harris, who had just started work in the office of the then Seanad leader, Frances Fitzgerald.

Stephen recalls that Harris made no secret of his ambition to make a career in politics, starting with a run in the next local elections in his hometown of Greystones.

“I was struck instantly by this young fella’s enthusiasm but took his political ambitions with a grain of salt.”

Fast-forward to last weekend and the newly elected Fine Gael leader’s arrival at the ardfheis in Galway. It generated a frenzy of excitement among the buzzing Blueshirts.

As he made his way through the throng, Harris spotted Collins at one of the stands selling the newly revised and updated edition of his book Ireland’s Call: How Brexit Got Done.

With the same level of energy he displayed as a teenager, he charged over to wish the author well and pose for a photo before plunging back into the crowd.

Stephen shifted a fair few copies on the day.

He’s in Dublin on Saturday for the Fianna Fáil ardfheis with more Brexit books to sell. Given the actual subject, it’s a decent read.

If sales go well, perhaps the former Irish Times political editor should perhaps think of setting up his stall at the next Sinn Féin ardfheis.

That would be entertaining.

Incidentally, while the book can be purchased on, the UK version of the site lists it as unavailable. The reason: Brexit. Fortunately it can be obtained without any hassle from

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