ZOZIMUS

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Analysis - LIAM COLLINS

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.

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