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.