Michael Collins banished but Enda Kenny welcomed back to Taoiseach’s office for Harris visit

Hugs between old allies in Government Buildings but friction is building in another Blueshirt bastion

Enda Kenny returned to his old office in Government Buildings to meet the Taoiseach Simon Harris

Enda Kenny channelling Nigel Farage channelling Eminem.

Now, there’s a thought.

We can see it now: Enda presenting himself at the entrance to Government Buildings on Wednesday with a big grin on his face.

“Guess who’s back?” he drawls. “Back again.”


In he goes, up those familiar stairs to the start of the ministerial corridor.

“Guess who’s back? Back again.”

Thumping and backslapping along the hall until he lands at the Taoiseach’s suite.

“Guess who’s back? Back again. Baby!”

We hear it was a bit of love-in when Enda returned to his old office this week to visit the lad who nominated him to be taoiseach back in 2011. He then gave young Simon Harris his first minister of State job and subsequently made him minister for health.

Apparently he “hugged his way up the corridor and into Simon’s office, holding court in various rooms along the way. He knew the names of all the security lads and had an anecdote for everyone.”

The two met on the election trail in Castlebar a few weeks ago and, before the bellowing Burkes arrived and started chasing everyone around the place, Simon invited Enda up to Dublin for a meeting.

We couldn’t find out what they talked about except that it was “very political” and the former taoiseach gave the new Taoiseach a few tips about the job.

Enda thought the office looked pretty much the same as when he left it but noticed that the portrait of Michael Collins was gone from above the mantelpiece.

Simon explained it was moved because of the rotating taoiseach agreement with Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin. Now, Collins is on one side of the fireplace and Éamon de Valera is on the other and there’s an impartial gilt mirror between them with a painting of St Brigid on a far wall for the leader of the Greens.

The meeting lasted for well over an hour and it’s a safe bet to assume that the general election was high on the list of topics for discussion.

A return for combative Kate O’Connell?

A little over a decade ago Garret FitzGerald’s Blueshirt bastion of Dublin Bay South had two Fine Gael TDs: Lucinda Creighton and Eoghan Murphy.

Lucinda left in a huff over abortion legislation, while Murphy jumped overboard when he wasn’t reappointed to the Cabinet by Leo Varadkar.

Enter Kate O’Connell, who took Lucinda’s seat in 2016 but narrowly lost it in 2020 after slagging off Leo and his “choirboys”. Then Murphy bailed a year later and in the byelection that followed, true-blue barrister James Geoghegan was beaten by Labour’s Ivana Bacik.

Fine Gael is desperate to re-establish a presence in the constituency. Geoghegan, who was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin on Friday, has already been selected to contest the next election but the big question is: who will join him on the ticket?

Will it be Emma Blain, who stormed home alongside him in the locals (the pair got 35 per cent of the vote in the Pembroke ward) or will the party come back to the combative Kate?

In Emma’s favour, she has proved an effective campaigner without ever uttering a cross word about her running mate. Her camp is talking up a Geoghegan/Blain ticket as a united and formidable team which will almost certainly deliver one seat with an outside chance of taking a second.

But a Geoghegan/O’Connell ticket sounds like a far more exciting prospect as the inevitable fireworks would be most entertaining. The local Fine Gael organisation may not be so amused, going by Kate’s rollicking account in 2021 of how a section of the membership looked upon her as a blow-in from the country with one snooty D4 member even bringing a sod of turf to an event.

She told RTÉ their attitude was: “We don’t like the cut of your jib … You are undesirable and unsuitable and possibly not good enough.”

But what do the Mount Street strategists is best for the party? Head office is expected to make a decision shortly. Who will join James – Emma or Kate? It’s going to be an anxious couple of weeks for all three.

And it will also be an anxious time for Neale Richmond, Minister of State with responsibility for financial services. He wouldn’t be best pleased if headquarters runs the high-profile pharmacist, who was warmly embraced by Simon Harris when she made a grand entrance at the Fine Gael ardfheis earlier this year, in his newly enlarged four-seater of Dublin Rathdown.

There is a vacancy in the constituency since Josepha Madigan announced she will not be running again, although a different O’Connell – Cllr Maeve O’Connell, wife of Dublin West TD Colm Brophy, has been widely tipped to join Neale on the ticket.

Senator Pippa Hackett: 'a tough cookie'. Photograph: Conor Ó Mearáin/Collins

Pippa Hackett’s bog standards

Supporters of Senator Pippa Hackett’s campaign for the Green Party leadership point to her track record in achieving results at the Department of Agriculture, where she is Minister of State with responsibility for land use and diversity.

“She’s a tough cookie. That department is seen as a hostile place for Greens. That’s why Eamon put her in there, because there’s no better woman to fight her own corner,” said one. “It’s paid off too. There were 1,600 organic farmers in the country when she came into the job, now there are 5,000,” says one admirer.

“Just ask Charlie McConalogue and Martin Heydon to show you their scars from CAP negotiations back in 2021 – she was tenacious in not allowing them away with anything, demanding that farmers do more for the environment in return for their cash from the Europe.”

Although one man who is neither an admirer nor an organic farmer is Rural Independent/Independent Ireland TD Michael Collins.

The Skibbereen TD, who previously publicly identified as an organic farmer, famously clashed with her in the Dáil last year when she called him one.

The House had to be suspended twice amid ructions from the overwrought deputy, backed up by Michael Healy-Rae, who accused the biodiversity Minister of spreading mistruths.

“I am not an organic farmer, correct the record of the Dáil please!”

The Offaly-based senator said afterwards that their Dáil “antics” followed on from Danny Healy-Rae questioning whether she should be a Minister at all.

“I seem to elicit a very personal response from them quite often in the chamber and it’s very unpleasant … I won’t be shouted down by a group of men. I’ll continue to fight for farmers, for nature, for biodiversity and for rural Ireland.

“The divisive theatrics of this evening might get the lads a slap on the back – but it won’t help a single farmer.”

However, while Pippa says she is “not a conventional Green”, it hasn’t always looked that way.

In 2020, when 500 angry Bord na Móna workers protested at a union-backed rally against the early closure of the ESB’s peat-powered Shannonbridge plant, Pippa spectacularly failed to read the room.

Union leaders and workers raised concerns over “pension insecurity” and the economic impact of the closure on the region. The marchers also heard from local TDs who delivered supportive speeches.

Agriland reported that Senator Hackett “received an instant backlash” from the crowd when she compared the local bogs to a loving mother.

“I like to think of the peatlands around here as a sort of mother figure,” she told the gobsmacked protesters. “She has nurtured us; she has fed us; she has warmed our homes; she has educated us; and now she has reached a stage that we all knew she would reach.

“She has reached a stage of retirement; and we have to look after her. If we continue to look after her, she will look after us,” she said to the men and women worried about their own pensions.

Her analogy went down like a lead balloon to shouts of “And what about us? What about the workers? What about the people in the midlands? You live on a green cloud.”

A brave woman.

Eamon Ryan paints portrait of corrosive social media as he opens late father’s final exhibition

Big week for the Green Party, with the resignation of leader Eamon Ryan in time to get a replacement up and running before the next general election.

After stepping down on Tuesday, when he talked about the abuse directed at politicians on social media and singled out a “really nasty comment about my father, who just died”, he opened an exhibition of his dad’s paintings in the Taylor Gallery on Thursday night.

“A Legacy of Landscapes” is Bob Ryan’s final collection. He died in 2017. Proceeds from the exhibition will go towards funding art therapy at the autism charity Open Spectrum.

As God closed one Green politician’s door, another one was opened.

Former TD, senator and party chairman Dan Boyle was elected Lord Mayor of Cork on Friday night – a first for him and a first for the Greens in the city. Dan takes office as the result of a pact between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and the Greens.

Róisín Garvey emerges as Greens’ breakout star as leadership race begins

And the breakout star of this momentous week on Planet Green is Senator Róisín Garvey, who is backing Pippa Hackett against Roderic O’Gorman in the leadership race.

The refreshingly straight-talking Clare woman appeared on a number of current affairs programmes during the week and did sterling work defending her party against the claims that is not in tune with the concerns of rural Ireland.

She went up against the unusually unflappable Michael Healy-Rae on RTÉ’s Prime Time and handed him his flat cap on a plate. The Kerry TD tends to enjoy an unchallenged run as an authority on matters relating to the people and problems of rural Ireland.

But he was reduced to accusing Senator Garvey, who hardly raised her voice, of attempting to start a shouting match. And when she produced documentary evidence of how the Healy-Raes take the credit for Green Party initiatives in housing and transport in the county he told her: “There’s no need to get excited.”

When he dismissed the provision of 400 new buses, saying they were completely unsuitable, she brandished a leaflet he sent out to constituents. “Here you are claiming it’s all down to you!”

As someone who lives “in the middle of nowhere” on the family farm in Clare, she told MHR she is as much a voice for rural Ireland as he is.

Except that she lives in the now and his “head is in the sand”.

Well able for him.

Maybe Pippa and Roderic should give Róisín a run at the leadership.

As one impressed viewer put it on social media: “I haven’t seen Clare beat Kerry like that since the ‘92 Munster football final.”