YOU have to hand it to those Fine Gael types in Dublin Bay South when it comes to the fundraising. Their breakfast in the Shelbourne last year got lots of traction when Michael O’Leary (not much in evidence at the moment) had a typically intemperate go at RTE.
This year they decided to ‘top that’, as they say, by getting that other Irish aviation tycoon, Willie Walsh, who runs the airline giant AIG, as guest speaker at their expensive networking breakfast, festooned with ministers and other party worthies.
Willie told an amusing story of going for a pint in a London pub when some Irish guy stared at him for a while and then opened a conversation which went something like this:
“I know you from somewhere, don’t I?” Shrug from Willie Walsh. “It’s from the telly isn’t it?” Another shrug. “I know — you’re Michael O’Leary aren’t you?” “No, I’m not. “Yes you are, you are Michael O’Leary.” “I’m not.” “You are, I’ve seen you on the telly.”
“Would you ever f**k off and leave me alone.”
“I knew it, I knew it — that’s exactly what I’d expect you to say.”
In these troubled airline times, Willie Walsh is certainly having a much better time of it than Fine Gael’s headliner of 2016.
***** OUR man with a musical ear was quite surprised to see Sunday Times editor Frank Fitzgibbon and his chief adjutant John Burns enjoying the opening night of Miss Saigon in the Grand Canal Theatre on Wednesday last.
Perhaps they were escaping from some awkward questions earlier in the day about the senior member of the paper’s sports staff who has written a letter in support of the former Irish Times star columnist Tom Humphries, who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to two counts of defilement and four counts of sexual exploitation of a child.
The letter by David Walsh describing the former sports columnist as “hugely regarded” and “hugely respected” was handed to Judge Karen O’Connor at last Wednesday’s sentencing hearing. Mr Humphries will finally be sentenced on October 24, over six years after his crimes against the 14-year-old girl first came to light.
The Sunday Times’ Dublin editor said he was “unaware” of the testimonial being delivered to the trial, but declined to say whether he condoned the actions of one of the paper’s senior correspondents in providing the letter of support to the convicted paedophile.
Mr Fitzgibbon and Mr Burns, two of Dublin’s best-known journalistic Twitterers, can’t have liked their paper being dragged back into the limelight so soon after the sacking of columnist Kevin Myers — who caused an international outcry with a column which, apparently, they allowed into the newspaper and was later described as anti-Semitic and misogynist.
Maybe Miss Saigon, which involves brothels and a wonderful helicopter scene, was light relief from the newspaper’s nearby offices in the Watermarque building.
Let’s hope no stories surface in the Sunday Times pontificating about the evils of politicians writing to judges on behalf of constituents facing jail... or would that be the icing on the cake?
***** LEO Varadkar’s much-publicised ‘spin machine’ hasn’t taken long to go into over-drive, according to those who keep a keen eye on The Office of Government Procurement tendering process. Last week tenders closed for a whole range of research services for the Department of the Taoiseach, which will track how we’re all feeling about almost everything, or so it seems.
“The Department of the Taoiseach invites tender for a Research and Insight Survey comprising of two key elements: 1: Initial Report Regarding Public Perception of Government and its Services. 2: Rolling Tracker of Attitudes.”
This involves keeping the Taoiseach updated on how we all feel about a whole range of things which will allow him and his advisers to gauge the public mood about almost everything.
We had always believed that Government was about leading the people, not being led by them through an expensive set of survey results. The death of Liam Cosgrave last week at the age of 97 also brought us back to an old way of doing things — ‘The Cosser’ decided what was right, even if it meant voting against his own party and his own government.
We won’t be getting any of that from the new cabal advising the Taoiseach.
The question, of course, arises: what if the pollsters get it wrong, as they seem to do more frequently?
Leo might be better going with his gut instinct; it’s served him well so far.
***** ALTHOUGH it sounds like an unlikely friendship, Alan Shatter, the former Minister for Justice, has revealed his closeness with the late Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds — and how Albert almost made him laugh out loud when he was trying to maintain a sombre face as he walked behind Queen Elizabeth.
In his memoir, Life is a Funny Business, Shatter reveals how he and the Longford Leader used to chat in the Riverview Club in Clonskeagh, Dublin after Albert had finished his swim and he had finished a tennis match.
Albert was Taoiseach at the time and according to Mr Shatter was “coming under terrible political pressure” because of his contacts with the IRA.
“I was surprised at the extent to which Albert confided in me over those weeks,” says Shatter. “He never asked that I keep our conversations confidential... I assume he presumed that I would and I did.” Fast forward and the Fine Gael backbencher is now Minister for Justice trailing through the Garden of Remembrance behind the Queen and the President.
“I saw Albert out of the corner of my right eye greet me with a big smile and give me an enthusiastic thumbs up... I have always had a difficulty taking myself seriously at ceremonials and, a bit like the occasion when the Chief Rabbi spat in my eye, I had to struggle not to smile in response,” writes Shatter in his memoir. Our man nosing around the Hodges Figgis bookshop tells us that Shatter and Hillary Clinton (with her memoir What Happened) are now neck and neck in the bestseller lists.