Eyeing up the fresh blood with my oc­to­ge­nar­ian pals


LAST WED­NES­DAY I spent a cou­ple of de­light­ful hours in the com­pany of sev­eral of Mayo's finest men - oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans who had piled into buses in the early hours of the morn­ing head­ing for the Big Schmoke to see the an­noint­ing for their favourite son.

I'm a bit of an anorak, so be­ing de­ployed to Dáil Eire­ann for the first day of the 31st Dáil nearly saw me dizzy with ex­cite­ment. I would nearly have cov­ered the day for free...nearly mind you not ac­tu­ally (these are straight­ened times af­ter all and ev­ery penny counts!)

With the ma­jor­ity of TDs bring­ing fam­ily mem­bers with them on the day and in­creased me­dia in­ter­est, it was very much a full house in Le­in­ster House last Wed­nes­day. There wasn't a hope of get­ting into the pub­lic gallery, never mind the press gallery.

And it turns out that it is an ill wind that blows no good and I watched the rub­bing stamp­ing of Enda Kenny as Taoiseach with a gag­gle of men from Castle­bar who wel­comed me into their com­pany, even though I was a jour­nal­ist!

It seems the edi­tor of the lo­cal pa­per in Castle­bar has coloured their views of the fourth es­tate as he seems a lit­tle anti-Fine Gael which is noth­ing short of heresy in their minds - par­tic­u­larly at the mo­ment.

Enda's nom­i­na­tion came from baby of the Dáil, Wick­low's Si­mon Har­ris, who is a mere 24 years old.

There was a touch of mu­tual shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion then as the men from Mayo didn't know who Deputy Har­ris was - in­for­ma­tion which I duly sup­plied while I was quickly in­formed by my new friends that the Mayo man was him­self elected to the Dáil at the same age and ‘ look at him now - he is the Taoiseach'.

The nom­i­na­tion was sec­onded by Ciara Conway of Labour ( Wa­ter­ford) and once again the room broke into ap­plause.

Then came the speeches. First we had Micheal Martin (brief and to the point); Joe Hig­gins (any­thing but brief or in­deed to the point) and Gerry Adams (who made so much of a mess that party col­league Pearse Do­herty had to speak shortly af­ter him to ham­mer their point across, al­though once again Deputy Adams showed a great flair for our na­tive tongue. (If he had taken a less po­lit­i­cal role in his youth he could have been a great muin­teoir I suspect).

And both my new found friends and I thought that was the end of the speeches as we had heard from Fianna Fáil, the tech­ni­cal group and Sinn Fein. But no, the Ceann Comhairle showed sur­pris­ing lat­i­tude and gave quite a num­ber of the In­de­pen­dents speak­ing time.

So we were treated to Shane Ross who sported a blue tie (per­haps a throw­back to his Fine Gael years) and made lit­tle if any men­tion of Enda Kenny but did man­age to cut Fine Gael's Bernard Durkan down to size when he spoke about Min­is­ter's salaries. ‘It is some­thing that may not af­fect you this evening Deputy Durkan al­though maybe Enda Kenny is a for­giv­ing type,' re­fer­ring to Deputy Durkan's stance in the heave against Enda Kenny last sum­mer.

He was fol­lowed by Sea­mus Healy of Tip­per­ary (largely for­get­table) and Richard Boyd Barrett (most notable for us­ing 'ah' and ‘em' a lot!).

We had John Hal­li­gan of Wa­ter­ford who seemed to have his speech writ­ten on the back of an en­ve­lope; Tom Flem­ing (to­tally off the point men­tion­ing po­ten­tial job losses in Kerry) and the peo­ple's favourite Mick Wal­lace (spoke well and it ap­peared to be un­re­hearsed).

Luke ‘ Ming' Flana­gan pro­ceeded to tell ev­ery­one he had lived in Hol­land which given his predilec­tion for the wacky baccy, it was hardly earth shat­ter­ing news.

He was fol­lowed by Michael Healy Rae who drew laugh­ter from the room I was in when he ap­peared sans hat. A cruel bunch those men from the West!

Later in the day when I hap­pened on my new found friends again they showed no sign of their ad­vanc­ing years and when I asked about the de­par­ture time they shrugged and said maybe 10 or 11pm. ‘We are hop­ing to have Enda join us later for a few drinks in the Daven­port!' they told me glee­fully.

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