The Irish Times

Phantom Dáil visit

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Parking spaces at Leinster House are at a premium at this time of the year, what with so many former TDs and senators availing of their lifetime free parking perk in one of Dublin city centre’s most convenient spots. They dump their cars within the magic gates and toddle off for the day to do Christmas shopping.

This can present a problem to the hard-pressed ushers, who can’t always be expected to know a face or recognise the name of some hoary old senator or TD who barely warmed an Oireachtas seat for a brief period back in the day. Some of them (we’ve seen it happen) are deeply affronted when they aren’t recognised and a uniformed functionar­y has to ask who they are.

Speaking of the ushers, congratula­tions to Phil Donnelly, who quietly breached an Oireachtas glass ceiling this week when she was promoted to the rank of team leader, joining a select group of male colleagues. Women ushers were appointed in 1994 and it’s taken 21 years for Phil to become the first woman to earn a stripe.

Wheels of fortune

Back to the car parks, and it was very busy at the Merrion Street entrance on Tuesday morning.

At one point, a man we didn’t recognise drew up in his car and waited behind the wheel. But the barrier stayed in place. The usher didn’t recognise him either.

It was a nice car, though.

This driver, we mused, must have done very well for himself since quitting politics – a profession to which he was clearly unsuited because nobody knew who he was.

It took a major effort to swing the vehicle through the gates, and when the manoeuvre was complete the enormous, very shiny, Rolls Royce Phantom with Jersey registered plates just about managed to fit in the gap.

Diminutive

But wait! There was somebody else in the car. You could see the top of his head above the dashboard. The door opened and the diminutive passenger scuttled over to the security hut.

But, alas, there was no room for the Roller, the mystery driver and his passenger Willie O’Dea. So they had to back out and drive away.

Onlookers wondered if the former minister for justice had won the Euromillio­ns jackpot.

Others reckoned election specialist Willie was road-testing a new campaign vehicle. He’d certainly get plenty of attention around the streets of Limerick in the Phantom, although he’ll have to buy a booster seat if he wants the voters to see him.

FF headquarte­rs will be delighted to hear that O’Dea is mixing with the Rolls Royce set.

He might even manage to cadge a few donations for them, always welcome in the run-up to an election.

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