Thursday, December 17, 2009

Paul Bags Himself Another Fine Mess!

That’s another fine mess you have gotten us into, Deputy Gogarty!

Fresh from his potty-mouth outburst in the Dail when he shouted ‘F**k you Deputy Stagg, f**k you’ to Labour’s Emmet Stagg, the lyrical loose canon of the Green Party has gotten everyone thinking - about political insults!

Did nobody ever tell young Go-Go Gogarty that the Greens have always endorsed a ban on ‘stagg’ hunting?!

Well anyway - just what constitutes ‘unparliamentary language’ in our corridors of power?

Well it seems the rules and regulations come from the dark ages when it was a gross insult to refer to someone as a ‘corner boy’ or ‘guttersnipe’.

In fact, the infamous f-word much loved by Go-Go Gogarty isn’t even listed - nor or many other colourful and often used swear words.

One banned phrase that did baffle this column for some time was ‘handbagging’. Just what is so insulting about that, I thought until such time as I had done some research on it.

There is a crude meaning - which I will not go into - but apparently the rule dates back to 1992 when the then Transport Minister and Current EU Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn took exception to Fine Gael’s Austin Currie describing her style of negotiation with Aer Lingus as ‘handbagging’.

Geoghegan-Quinn claimed the term was insulting to her.

The phrase has its political origins during the reign of Maggie Thatcher as Prime Minister in the UK.

It became a technical term of asserting oneself, if not literally whacking one’s opponents.

It was most famously used when Mrs Thatcher reportedly banged her hands on the table in a European summit demanding that the UK be given a rebate on its contributions.

On that occasion, the handbagging worked and Maggie got her way.

I think we could do with a bit more handbagging in the corridors of power!

Seanad Santa's Gift

Ho-Ho-Holy God - not only is David Norris a shining light of our Seanad, he is now moonlighting as Santa Claus!

Always game for a laugh, David Norris put on the big red suit this week to impersonate the great man who will be arriving to homes across the country - including the many homes of politicians - on December 25.

And the occasion that led David to take off his waistcoat and pocket watch in return for a Santa suit was to promote the World Vision Community Gift Catalogue.

If David Norris is Santa, does that make Brian Lenihan the Grinch who stole Christmas from the public sector workers??

Ciaran's Summit is a Rail Odyssey

They are not all loopers in the Green Party - take Ciaran Cuffe for example, he is a man who lives by his ideals and beliefs.

Currently in Copenhagen for the United Nations Climate Change conference, Ciaran was determined not to increase his carbon footprint by flying to the Danish capital.

Instead he took the long route there.

He left from Dun Laoghaire on the ferry to Holyhead on Sunday afternoon and then got a train to London.

He overnighted in London and then caught the Eurostar to Brussels and then on to Cologne where be boarded a night-sleeper to the Danish capital.

A trip that would have taken less than three hours by air was instead a two-day odyssey across Europe for Ciaran.

For Fianna Weather??

Let the stampede begin - tickets have gone on sale for the Fianna Fail superdraw!

Each ticket costs €50 but thrown into the bargain is not only the chance to win a prize, but instant membership of Cairde Fianna Fail!

This year’s prizes are decent enough - there are two cars up for grabs.

But this column was slightly bemused at the third prize - a set of garden furniture!!

With Irish weather??? Are you joking???

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Politicians tightening their own belts!

After yesterday’s budget, is there really any more ways to tighten our belts?

Fine Gael Senator Nicky McFadden is certain that there are and - in common with the budget - it involves the loss of a few pounds.

Nicky is one of the 15 politicians who are taking part in RTE’s Operation Transformation programme in the New Year and is looking on the opportunity as a way to turn her unhealthy lifestyle around.

“I am really energized about taking part in this season’s Operation Transformation as my family history dictates that I either do something about my lifestyle choices now or I may not be lucky enough to live to regret it later,” she said.

She admits that as a member of the Oireachtas, her lifestyle is extremely erratic - ‘with long days and late nights resulting in grabbing snacks on the run, eating late into the night and getting little or no exercise during midweek’.

Nicky’s own mother died from heart related problems at the young age of 59 as did her mother before her.

“I am adamant not to let the same thing happen to me,” she said.

“I have high blood pressure which I take medication to control and feel that if I was in slightly better shape it would go a long way to enhancing my quality of life and ultimately my longevity. “

“My dad also suffered a stroke ten years ago, so my family history is screaming at me to take stock of how things are now if I want to live to the ripe old age which I do.”

This column will be following the progress of the 15 politicians and
wishes them the best of luck!

Former diplomat to run for Governor

The former American Ambassador to Ireland - Tom Foley - is on the run again!! This time for the title of Governor of Connecticut in 2010.

Foley was a popular Ambassador in diplomatic circles when he was in Dublin and did great work in ensuring the American role in the Irish peace process was kept visible.

Foley had originally decided to run for the US Senate seat currently held by Chris Dodd, but that race has turned very tough.

Instead, Foley - who was a major fundraiser for former US President George W Bush - will now run for governor after incumbent Republican Jodi Rell announced she would not be seeking reelection.

And the reaction from the American public has been excellent.

"Last week, I announced that I was looking at the race for Governor. Since then, I have had hundreds of e-mails from supporters and have spoken to over one hundred people - including many who are currently serving in our state government.”

"They have overwhelmingly encouraged me to run for Governor,” he said.

Baby joy for Blaney

Congrats are the order of the day for Fianna Fail TD Niall Blaney who has become a Dad for the third time.

The Donegal North East TD and his wife Rosaleen welcomed their third child earlier this week with the arrival of a baby boy, weighing just over eight pounds.

The couple - who already have two little girls, Eva and Laragh - are naming their son Harry after Niall’s dad - the famous Harry Blaney.

Text message is all above Border

It is amazing what some Fianna Fail senators can achieve - Cecilia Keaveney has managed to get Vodafone to drop the word ‘Ireland’ in its roaming message!!

Currently when people on the Vodafone UK network cross over the border from the North into the Republic, they automatically receive a message from Vodafone saying ‘Welcome to Ireland. Calls cost ....etc’.

Celilia’s attention was brought to this message by a number of people because they were offended by it.

“They felt that they had never left Ireland,” she said.

So Cecilia put on her politician’s hat and had it out with Vodafone and - guess what - she succeeded.

Technicians are currently updating the message sent to customers which will read ‘You are now roaming and costs are as follows.....’.

“This is a much more satisfactory approach in this era of cross border co-operation,” she said.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Jingle Bells - Gerry's felled....

It mightn’t actually seem like the season of goodwill to all men and women, but it appears that Christmas has come to the corridors of power.

Yesterday, newly crowned Ceann Comhairle ‘Captain’ Seamus Kirk was joined by party leaders and the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Pat Moylan, for the official switching on of the Oireachtas Christmas Tree lights.

This is an annual event and is the one time that you will be guaranteed to see all political parties smiling and laughing along with each other.

It is, in the words of Captain Kirk himself, a time ‘when members of the Oireachtas from all sides get together in order to celebrate the festive season and enables people to commemorate and look forward to the Christmas period’.

But it seems that Sinn Fein have a different view - they used the festive tradition of carol singing to highlight their campaign to have the Christmas bonus reinstated.

The Sinn Fein crooners gathered outside Leinster House on Tuesday to raise their voices to demand the reversal of long term social welfare payments.

Campaigners sang a reworking of ‘Jingle Bells’ demanding the restoration of the bonus.

There was, however, much disappointment that party president Gerry ‘Santa Claus’ Adams wasn’t there - a bad dose of the flu (not of the piggy variety) was to blame.

A Committee - at work!

You hear about Oireachtas Committees, you read about Oireachtas Committees - now here’s your chance to see an Oireachtas Committee in operation.

On Tuesday, members of the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women’s Rights left the cosy confines of Leinster House and ventured out into the big bad world.

The purpose of the outing was to see Ireland’s new criminal courts complex beside the Phoenix Park.

The new 23,000 square metre complex houses 22 courtrooms and will be the new home to the Court of Criminal Appeal, Special Criminal Court, Central Criminal Court as well as the District Courts.

Sniff, sniff - oink oink?!

Sinn Fein had to publicly deny rumours that its party president Gerry Adams had fallen victim to swine flu.

On Tuesday Mr Adams was due to take part in a live public interview at the National College of Ireland on the topic of leadership.

But the announcement that he was forced to cancel due to ‘suspected swine flu’ became an instant talking point among politics watchers.

The truth was eventually laid bare within hours when Sinn Fein issued a statement denying that the party president had Swine Flu.

“He has not contracted Swine Flu. He is currently suffering from a dose of the flu,” a spokesperson said.

Time for a united Ireland?

Now that Fianna Fail has spread its tentacles north of the border to Fermanagh, the SDLP’s deputy leader reckons its time to start talking about a united Ireland.

Alasdair McDonnell believes the time has come to move the debate on a united Ireland forward.

“We predicted that political change would come in an agreed Ireland and it is beginning to happen,” he said.

“The fact is that there is a great hunger in our people for all-Ireland politics.”

“Almost all the political parties on this island grew directly or indirectly out of the constitutional conflict of the early 20th century.”

“That conflict is now over, there is a new dispensation of consent and we must have a new political conversation.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Support for Big Apple Irish

One is the most powerful woman in New York and whose name is being spoken about in terms of the presidency in the future.

The other is one of the most powerful men in Ireland whose name is also being spoken about in terms of another big job in the future.

And yesterday, the two met up in Dublin when Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin welcomed the Speaker of New York Christine Quinn to Leinster House.

Her visit to Leinster House was to talk with Minister Martin about supporting the Irish community in New York.

Quinn is listed as one of the five most powerful women in the States and is regarded as a key ally for the Irish community in the Big Apple.

Quinn and Minister Martin jointly launched a new helpline to support older members of the community last year to combat loneliness and isolation.

She was also named as Irish-American of the year in 2008.

Yesterday they discussed how the city of New York and the Government here can co-operate in a wide range of areas such as helping those who have fallen on hard times, supporting Irish cultural events and promoting the GAA.

Micheal Martin also used the opportunity to brief the Speaker on current developments in Northern Ireland.

Christine Quinn, whose name has been mentioned as a possible future candidate for the White House, spent the morning in Dublin before travelling to Belfast.

The Morans of Uruguay

Staying with events of a Foreign Affairs nature, it seems that the Morans of Uruguay are coming home!

Our strong links with South America were to the fore at this week’s Cabinet meeting when one Nestor Moran was approved as the new Ambassador from Uruguay.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin told colleagues that Nestor Julio Moreira Moran is taking up the post as ‘Ambassador of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay to Ireland’ to give him his proper title.

The Ambassador comes with strong credentials after serving in a range of posts across Europe.

Over 700,000 people in Uruguay and Argentina claim Irish heritage.

The region has strong links with Wexford and the Midlands – with settlers, ranchers, soldiers and missionaries travelling to both countries for decades.

Ambassador Moran is also accredited to Britain and is based in London,.

It remains to be seen if he will try to trace any Irish roots when he visits to present credentials to President Mary McAleese.

Robin Hood Budget

The countdown to the most feared budget in the history of the State has well and truly begun and here starts the rumour and speculation as to what Brian ‘The Knife’ Lenihan will do.

Bookie Paddy Power has ponied up some odds for those of you who like to have a little flutter on such speculation - and he feels it is going to be a ‘Robin Hood’ budget on December 9.

And if Paddy’s odds turn out to be correct, it signals bad news for Ireland’s elite!

Paddy Power are quoting 1/10 that child benefit will be reduced for parents earning €100,000 plus per annum, and just 5/2 that one or more of the income levies will be increased for people earning €100,000 upwards.

As far as tax and PRSI are concerned, Paddy Power are betting 3/1 that a third rate of income tax will be introduced for people earning over €100,000.

Another area that could be hit in this year’s budget could be ‘Trophy Houses’.

It’s 2/1 that Taoiseach Brian Cowen introduces a special tax on people who own trophy houses – that’s any house worth more than €1million.

It’s still unclear what lies in store for the public sector but it’s 10/1 that the top public sector salary gets reduced to €150,000 or less per annum.

Sharon McHugh, spokesperson for Paddy Power said: “If the Taoiseach plays his cards right Budget 2009 could be an opportunity for him to change from the Sheriff of Nottingham to Robin Hood!”

Priorities Please!

With all the NAMA stuff, the pre-budget stuff and the Ceann Comhairle’s resigning, it seems that one vital legislative measure slipped through undetected and without comment.

SI 402, 2009, AKA the Greyhound Industry, (Racing) (Amendment) Regulations 2009 was laid before the Dail a few weeks ago.

This vital piece of law has the effect of reducing the qualifying time for novice greyhounds over a distance of 525 yards from 31.00 to 30.70 seconds.

How the media did not spot this is beyond me!

On a serious note, this SI and others like it, do clog up the legislative process, and presumably would have to be drafted by somebody in the Attorney General's office.

In the meantime, badly needed legislation in areas like climate change, protection of people in mortgage arrears etc have failed to appear.

Priorities, politicians, please!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Was Hanafin the original target?

I bet Social and Family Affairs Miniser Mary Hanafin was breathing a sigh of relief on Monday night as RTE’s Frontline was interrupted by a man with a bee in his bonnet over Pat Kenny’s salary.

The live mauling of Pat Kenny has become an internet hit because of its ‘car crash TV’ nature - a bloke in the audience verbally tearing Kenny apart over the vast salary RTE pays him.

But what was interesting was just who was playing who?

The heckler in question is an Inchicore man called Alan O’Brien and despite being escorted out of the studio - live on air - he was unrepentant about his TV rant.

He got emotional, he didn’t hold back, he went for the kill - all things he and the rest of the audience were told to do by Pat Kenny in advance of the show going on air.

And it seems that poor Mary Hanafin - a Lady of the cabinet - was the intended victim of this huge outpouring of ‘emotion’.

Speaking on radio, O’Brien denied that his rant was a stunt.

In fact he said it was ironic that he managed to harangue Pat Kenny as the presenter had warmed up the audience before the broadcast by telling them to let their emotions out and not hold back.

But I bet the RTE King of Current Affairs didn’t bet on himself being the target of the emotions of the audience.

I suppose it is a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’ - RTE may have wanted memorable TV at the expense of Mary Hanafin. It seems it got memorable TV at the expense of Pat Kenny!

Santa comes to Sinn Fein

It seems that Christmas has come early for the politicians and workers inside Leinster House.

Just a year ago, Sinn Fein’s Caoimhghin O Caolain claimed that Finance Minister Brian Lenihan had ‘cancelled Santa Claus’ thanks to his brutal budget.

Now it seems that Sinn Fein has resurrected Santa Claus and yesterday paraded him in front of Leinster House.

Santa was joined by another bearded figure - Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams - for the launch of the party’s campaign to have the Christmas Bonus Social Welfare payment restored.

No doubt, Mr Claus himself had his hands full quizzing all the TDs as to whether they were naughty or nice during the past year.

But the little TDs should be warned - due to the recession there is a good chance that all they will get under the tree on Christmas morning will be an IOU note, signed by Taoiseach Brian Cowen!

Big guns come out for Ogra bash

The young ones are at it again - the annual Ogra Fianna Fail Youth Conference will take place this weekend at the Great Northern Hotel in Bundoran.

And the theme of this year’s conference is ‘Renewal’.

Among the guest speakers will be CEO of the Road Safety Authority Noel Brett and Dragon’s Den star Sean Gallagher, who himself was a member of Ogra in his youth.

One of the plenary sessions at the conference will be dedicated to job creation and will include panel speakers representing growth sectors which the Government is targeting for future jobs creation in the smart economy.

Among the political heavyweights who will be attending the bash include Taoiseach Brian Cowen, Tanaiste Mary Coughlan, MEP Pat The Cope Gallagher as well as a number of Fianna Fail senior and junior ministers as well as Senators.

Deenihan to chronicle the glory days of Kerry football

First it was George Lee doing a bit of moonlighting by presenting an RTE special on the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Now his party colleague Jimmy Deenihan is set to pen a new book on the golden years of Kerry football.

And nobody in the Dail is more qualified to write such a book than one of the finest corner-backs the game of football has ever seen - Deenihan himself.

Jimmy will draw on his memories of one of the greatest periods in the Kingdom’s footballing story - including the four-in-a-row high between 1978 and 1981.

It is hoped that the book will be published in the first half of the New Year and proceeds from the sale of the book will be used to pay off the remaining debt of the Lartigue Monorail revival in Listowel - a project close to Deenihan’s heart.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Cabinet meeting where?!

A Cabinet meeting in a rat-infested classroom to highlight the problems in education? Or how about the weekly top brass gathering on hospital trolleys to bring attention to the ailing health service?

Maybe our Ministers could hold their weekly meeting of minds on the queue for food parcels outside the Capuchin Friary on Dublin’s Church Street to let people know about the new poor of Ireland?

Sounds a bit far-fetched, doesn’t it? Well when it comes to other Governments around the globe, they have no problem changing the location of their cabinet meetings to highlight problems.

Take the Nepalese Government, for example. They will be holding a cabinet meeting on Mount Everest later this month to highlight climate change in the world.

The entire cabinet of the 22-party coalition will move to the Everest base camp at an altitude of 17,585 feet for the landmark meeting.

The decision by the Nepalese cabinet to decamp from their cosy offices to Everest base camp comes just weeks after the government of the Maldives held an underwater cabinet meeting - YES, you read that right - to focus global attention on rising sea levels ahead of a key UN summit in December.

So if our Government want to highlight the conditions of schools in Ireland, I’m sure the INTO would be able to come up with a few choice locations for them where they could meet the local rats and mice that inhabit the school buildings on a frequent basis?

Or there are bound to be plenty of people who have been forced to endure long waits on hospital trolleys waiting for admission who would be honoured to point the way for the politicians.

But it seems that when our cabinet moves from the cosy confines of government buildings, they have more luxurious venues in mind - think back to the stately Emo Court outside Portlaoise in 2003 or Avondale House in Co Wicklow in 2006.

But we can all live in hope!

Lenihan takes the bulbs by the horn!!

Don’t be fooled by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan’s dark eyes or the fact that he seems to have no problem lurking through the corridors of power in the dead of night getting NAMA bills passed.

Brian is no vampire and his eating habits prove this!

It seems economist David McWilliam’s new book is a book of contradictions (everybody seems to be contradicting his version of events) but one nugget that stuck in our minds from it was the fact that Brian Lenihan is a huge fan of garlic - RAW garlic!

Just as easily as someone would pull an apple out of their pocket and bite into it, Brian will take whole cloves of garlic into his mouth and munch away to his hearts’ content.

Well his heart must be very content with this unusual eating habit as raw garlic is known for its health benefits - lowering blood pressure, reducing high cholesterol, regulating blood sugar and reducing bacterial infections.

But it also has another very handy benefit which Brian Lenihan obviously finds useful for dealing with pesky TDs/union bosses/bankrupt developers - raw garlic is great for getting rid of intestinal parasites and worms!!

TDs tighten their belts!!

And so RTE’s Operation Transformation is making a bee-line for tubby TDs and mountainy ministers.

Our politicians have been telling us to tighten our belts for ages now, so it will be comforting to know that after losing a few pounds, the politicians themselves will be able to tighten their own belts.

Needless to say, the letter from the producers of Operation Transformation was received with much hilarity by some TDs, who have now made slagging each other off a bit of a national pastime inside the corridors of power.

But our lips are sealed on the identity of the Minister who, on receipt of the letter, laughed and said: “If they could come up with a way of getting me to put on some weight, I would be in.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ciaran's Tweet Tooth!

Spoilsport - that’s what I say to the boring UK politician who has tabled a motion to ban ‘crackberries’ during meetings.

Liberal Democrat John Pugh has been so driven to despair by the sight of colleagues tapping away on their Blackberries/Crackberries and iPhone smartphones that he wants them banned altogether.

He said that ‘while recognising the enormous benefits of the modern smartphone’, he regrets the ‘tendency of Honourable Members to interact with these devices during select committee meetings and short debates’.

Any visitor to the public gallery in the Dail chamber will see - from time to tome - our trusty TDs tapping away on such phones.

It may be to simply check their emails or to text staffers of their needs.

But one TD stands head and shoulders above the others when it comes to using smartphones for the public good - Green TD Ciaran Cuffe.

Ciaran has become not only a serial blogger but a serial ‘tweeter’ as well and on the odd occasion, he has been known to ‘tweet’ from the Dail chamber.

Some luddites may think that this is a thundering disgrace but we disagree.

In this age of new technology, it is refreshing to get the opinions - albeit brief with Twitter - of a TD who is actually sitting in the chamber.

And when he is not ‘tweeting’ from the Chamber, he is ‘tweeting’ from either his office or when he is out and about letting people know what he is up to.

So keep up the good work Ciaran - this column is following you as are almost 700 other twitterers!

Something just doesn't add up......

Writing cheques they simply can’t cash - that is the view of the Government by Fine Gael’s Lucinda Creighton.

No - the Government hasn’t started it own cheque kiting racket, but its costings in relation to the new Programme for Government would keep a mathematician on their toes.

Part of the new PfG is the addition of 500 new teaching posts over the next three years.

Lucinda posed a question to Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe as to how much these 500 extra teachers would cost and was told - plainly and simply - that he didn’t know!

Naturally enough, Lucinda was left puzzled - as were the rest of us.

“Less than two months before the budget, Fianna Fail and the Greens are signing up for commitments that they haven’t even costed,” she said.

The estimated cost of the plan is in the region of €32m a year.

But as Lucinda says, ‘at a time when the Government desperately needs to cut the public sector wage bill, it is ridiculous and dishonest to be making uncosted commitments in response to unrealistic demands’.

The True Meaning of Campaigning Politics.

When it comes to campaigning politics, you can’t get more campaigning that Labour’s Joe Costello.

It has been a labour of love for him but there is no sign of him giving up on his weekly protest outside the Mater Hospital to highlight the continuing A&E crisis there.

While most politicians may be enjoying a lie in on a Saturday morning or engaging in cushy clinics with their constituents, Joe heads along to the Mater EVERY Saturday morning to highlight the overcrowding at the hospital.

“The A&E crisis must be tackled but this cannot be done without adequate community care and step down facilities, so that we can be sure that acute beds are being used by those who need them most,” he said.

A lot of his political colleagues could learn a valuable and humbling lesson from Gentleman Joe.

Eamon Ryan and Social Networking!

It is not often that one can mention a senior minister and porn in the same sentence - but today I will!

Communications Minister Eamon Ryan will officially open a special summit on the internet and social networking in Dublin tomorrow (Friday).

According to the organisers of the event, one of the topics up for discussion will be porn on the internet.

“For the first time in the internet’s near 20 year history, porn has been surpassed as the number one activity online.”

And what has surpassed it? Social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo and Twitter.

Can we expect Eamon Ryan to follow in his party colleague Ciaran Cuffe’s footsteps and become an accomplished tweeter? We will wait and see.

Separated at Birth?!

Full marks to the genius poster on who came up with the latest installment of ‘Politicians that look like stuff’.

And this time the victim is Junior Minister Dick Roche, who - it has to be said - bears an uncanny resemblance to Largo, the Bond villain in Thunderball, played by Italian actor Adolfo Celi.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Labour's Joan is no 'champagne' socialist!

Labour’s Joan Burton has become the latest TD to publish her own expenses on her website in the wake over the scandal over TDs expenses.

And it seems that Joan had little to worry about - her expenses for the past few years have actually being falling faster than John O’Donoghue can say ‘another champagne please’!

In 2005, Burton claimed a total of €26,114.31 on top of her salary of €88,763.21.

This €26,000 was made up of her constituency travel allowance, her miscellaneous expense allowance, travel and subsistence and her telephone allowance.

In the league table that year for politicians, Joan was at 133 out of 166 - towards the more frugal end of the class.

Her expenses rose slightly in 2006 to €29,343.78, placing her at number 126 in the league table of her peers.

But since 2006, her expenses have been falling - €27,966 in 2007; €22,697 in 2008 and €17,317 for the first six months of 2009.

Regarding her foreign travel - the cost of which was footed by the taxpayer - she took a relatively frugal approach to that as well.

A three-day trip to Edinburgh in 2007 for a Public Accounts Committee meeting with their Scottish counterparts cost us €736 for Joan’s fare and board and a three-day trip to Newcastle in 2008 for a plenary conference cost the taxpayer just €133.82.

The only lavish trip was to Washington in 2008 when Joan, along with members of the Joint Committee on Finance and Public Service went on a fact finding mission to examine financial issues including the volatility of financial markets and the sub-prime lending crisis.

Five TDs and one official went on this trip.

Joan stayed in Jury’s Hotel at a total cost of €866 for the six night stay. Her flight, however, came in at a hefty €3,279.

Ivor's at it again....

Ivor ‘The Engine’ Callely is certainly not backward in coming forward and now it appears he is trying to take some of the credit for the release of GOAL worker Sharon Commins!

In a press release sent from the dungeons in the Seanad, Ivor welcomed the release of the Clontarf woman - wasting no time in telling the world that he had been in regular contact with the Sudanese Ambassador on the matter.

“I spoke to the Sudanese Ambassador on a number of occasions with my concerns of Sharon’s abduction and he assured me that it was being treated very seriously and they were doing all they could,” he said.

For Ivor-watchers everywhere, this latest claim should not come as any major surprise.

It wasn’t long ago that he told his constituents that he would ‘keep a close eye on Burma’ at a time when the military junta there faced down everyone from the UN to the US.

I’m sure the military junta were cowering in fear when Ivor
proclaimed: “I will continue to closely monito

Enda and the ladies.....

What is it with women and Fine Gael?

Is it Enda Kenny’s boyish good looks or is it because the party is home to a number of young female TDs?

Well whatever it is, it is paying off as word comes to us that the annual Fine Gael Ladies Lunch is completely sold out and a waiting list has been set up!

The Ladies Lunch isn’t due to take place until November 27 next at the Westbury Hotel but demand has been so swift that a waiting list is now in place in the event of seats being available.

When it comes to the ladies, maybe Enda does have that X-Factor after all!

Playing the waiting game?

One is a man who is rarely off our TV screens, who is quick with a put down and who would love to have the ultimate job in his field.

The other is US TV chat show host Jimmy Kimmel.

It has been noted on line that there is a more than a passing resemblance between Kimmel and the Pit Bull of the Fine Gael front bench Leo Varadkar.

But it seems the pair have more in common than a resemblance.

Kimmel is waiting for the great dame of TV chat shows - David Letterman - to retire so he can make himself at home on the Late Show.

And maybe Varadkar is waiting for the Count of Castlebar to disappear in the same puff of smoke as the Seanad so he can make himself at home in the hot seat of Fine Gael?

Saucer of Milk!

Saucer of milk for Deputy Fergus O’Dowd, who was sharpening his claws this week over his boss’ idea to scrap the Seanad.

In response to Enda’s surprising move, two Senators - Dan Boyle and Fiona O’Malley - came out fighting in defence of the Seanad.

But it appears that Fergus O’Dowd saw straight through them.

“Dan Boyle and Fiona O’Malley couldn’t get elected to the Dail and were gift-wrapped the ‘consolation prize’ of a Seanad seat by the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern,” O’Dowd said.

“It says it all that two of the Seanad’s staunchest defenders and biggest opponents of its abolition were hand-picked by the Taoiseach to sit in the Seanad.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Free the Kilgarvan One!

Michael Healy-Rae has been kidnapped by members of ‘Ireland’s Extreme Scarehouse’and Defence Minister Willie O’Dea and Green Senator Dan Boyle are next on the list.

The Independent Cllr was kidnapped in broad daylight outside the offices of Kerry County Council in Tralee and bundled into a black hearse by some of the ugliest creatures ever seen in the Kingdom.

In what might come as some good news to the John O’Donoghue camp in South Kerry, the young Healy-Rae is being kept at an undisclosed location where his only contact with the outside world has been a brief video message from his captors.

The group claiming responsibility for the kidnapping call themselves the Nightmare Realm and their list of demands to secure his release are simple.

While tied up and with a gun to his head, the video – which can be viewed on YouTube – shows Healy-Rae pleading for his life and liberty as he discloses what the demands are.

“The Nightmare Realm has asked me to read out their list of demands and this is what they want,” the terrified Kilgarvan man said.

“Five inflatable pink rubber ducks, bring back the happy hour in all pubs, abolish student college rates, five packs of 2H pencils and a pencil sharpener, a blank cheque for expenses for every TD, three Hawaiian pizzas and three litres of Coke, a party in the Playboy Mansion and, finally, abolish all caps like the one I am wearing.”

“If this list of demands is not met by midnight, they will kidnap a politician every two hours starting next with Limerick’s Willie O’Dea and Cork’s Dan Boyle.”

“So can I plead with somebody, please help and sort out this list of demands,” he was last heard wailing.

We are sorry to break the bad news to you, but this kidnapping was merely just a very clever stunt by the Nightmare Realm to publicise their Halloween freak show in Tralee.

But they shouldn’t be putting ideas into people’s heads!!

Would they or wouldn't they?

There was all sorts of political posturing last Friday night as the country was left with baited breath as to whether the Greens were in or out of Government.

But what went on behind the scenes was an entirely different story because when it was announced that a deal had been done – it hadn’t!

According to serial-blogger Ciaran Cuffe, all the Green negotiators were holed up on the third floor of Agriculture House on the evening in question.

They were counting down to the news and they knew an announcement was expected.

“It was a crucial moment, did we have a deal or not?” blogged Cuffe, who admitted that the crucial parts of the small print had not been signed off on.

“Like any agreement, there has to be trust and we went with the line that the deal was done in time for the 9pm news.”

But it seems that the line by line work went on until 10pm that night, so they took some leap of faith in their Government partners that the small details would be agreed.

And then came the task of printing out 20,000 pages by 10am for the Green Party convention the following morning.

“Copiers in Government Buildings and Leinster House were cranked up and someone from John Gormley’s office headed down to Reads and took over four copiers.”

“There was even someone sent out to Stillorgan to a copy shop. Never again,” Cuffe said.


She hasn’t gone away, you know – former Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications Maire Geoghegan-Quinn is fast climbing up in the bookies favour to become Ireland’s next EU Commissioner.

She is now 9/2 second-favourite to succeed Charlie McCreevy in Brussels.

The Galway native, who now lives in Luxembourg, had been 7/1 with Paddy Power but a sustained gamble over the weekend saw her odds slashed to 9/2.

Pat Cox remains the even-money favourite with Pat “the Cope” Gallagher sharing second favouritism with Geoghegan-Quinn.

“Some very shrewd punters filled their boots with the 7/1 on offer on Maire Geoghegan-Quinn over the weekend and have left us with a payout in excess of €5,000 should she get the nod,” Paddy Power told this blog.

Hume's The Man!

The world and its mother thronged to the Mansion House last Thursday night for the much anticipated launch of Bertie Ahern’s ‘buke’.

They were a thirsty bunch and at one stage, the bar staff at the Mansion House’s Round Room became so overwhelmed that they ran short of glasses, resulting in a log-jam at the bar.

But hats off to the legendary John Hume, who was having none of this waiting lark to have his glass refilled.

Instead, he just stepped in behind the bar and refilled his glass himself.

I mean, who is going to tell a Nobel Peace Prize winner that they are not allowed to do that!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Yes He CAN!

It seems that not even a young fella with a few cans of Bulmers on board can stop the unflappable political oracle of RTE, David Davin Power.

The veteran Pol Corr - known to all as DDP - is a familiar face in the sitting rooms of Ireland as he analyses and dissects the news of the day from Leinster House.

But the real test of his expertise lies in how he can deal with interruptions while reporting live on TV.

First of all there was that hilarious incident at the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis earlier this year when he was surrounded by what looked like a group of zombies as he reported live on the 9pm news.

That has become an unlikely hit on YouTube with over 45,000 hits so far.

In fact, a new version of this has appeared on YouTube with a voice over by legendary Top of the Pops presenter Noel Edmonds and a cameo appearance by Status Quo!

But the latest zombie to dare to interrupt DDP was a hapless young fella laden down with cans of Bulmers live on Monday night’s news.

As DDP was reporting on the latest travails of John O’Donoghue during a questions and answers segment with news anchor Eileen Dunne, along came the young fan and raised his can of Bulmers to the nation.

“How’zt goin’?” the young fella said to a slightly bemused looking DDP.

But the oracle was not for flapping - “There you go”, he said to the young fella as he wandered off into the sunset with his arms laden with cans of booze.

“Just carry on there Eileen, sorry about that slight interruption,” he said as he continued with his report.

The incident created quite a few laughs, with Green TD Ciaran Cuffe even tweeting about it to the world.

“I had the sound on mute, but DDP appeared to play a blinder there,” Cuffe tweeted.

Well for those who didn’t see it, the RTE Political Oracle certainly did play a blinder!

O'Donoghue V Healy-Rae

Down in Cahersiveen, you would be hard pressed to find anyone to say a bad word about John O’Donoghue.

Some feel he has been scapegoated for the excess of others but some others are not that sympathetic.

So it was hardly surprising to hear his constituency ‘colleague’ Jackie Healy-Rae say that O’Donoghue ‘got himself into this mess’ and would ‘get himself out of it’.

The Healy-Rae ‘party’ is really Fianna Fail but by another name. However that doesn’t stop them from chomping at the bit at the thought of an open fight come the next general election.

The perk of the job of Ceann Comhairle is that you don’t have to fight the next general election - you are automatically re-elected.

In South Kerry, that would have meant a fight for just two seats currently held by Healy-Rae Snr and Fine Gael’s Tom Sheahan.

But with a strong Fianna Fail vote there, that would make the Healy-Rae seat somewhat vulnerable if a decent Fianna Fail candidate entered the mix.

However, with an open fight, the Healy-Raes would be most likely to hang onto their seat and this would see the Kilgarvan torch being passed on to Michael Healy-Rae.

There is no love lost between the Healy-Rae and O’Donoghue camps - that is an open secret.

So to paraphrase London Mayor Boris Johnson - ‘one man’s disaster is another man’s opportunity’.

Bertie's 'Buke'!

For Bertie lovers everywhere, the long-awaited ‘buke’ is now on the shelves and tonight (THURS) EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy will launch it at a gathering of over 400 people in the Mansion House.

The former Taoiseach told this column that he is ‘neither an historian or an academic’ but is proud of the ‘buke’ and admitted that he did indeed get some tips from his bestselling-author daughter Cecelia.

Many in the past have accused Bertie of sitting on the fence when it comes to making decisions, so it will come as no surprise to learn that when he signed the contract to pen his autobiography - the publishers couldn’t pin him down to a deadline.

But Bertie plodded away in the background and it was only when he broke his ankle last year in a fall that he actually found himself with plenty of time to do nothing but write!

And so the ‘buke’ is here - earlier than expected - and it is a mighty entertaining read.

It may not be the political anorak’s idea of a political memoir but Bertie has made it a ‘buke’ that is accessible to all and should have a wide audience.

It seems that the talents of the daughter have been passed on to the father!

Yes To Lisbon??

Thank God for small mercies - the Lisbon Treaty referendum is over and done with and with a bit of luck, we will never have to deal with it again.

As a result, Lisbon can return to being a lovely city in Portugal.

I wonder will Ryanair be offering cheap flights there in the future?!

The Irish public have said Yes, now maybe it is time Michael O’Leary said Yes To Lisbon!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Little Lisbon Lunacy!

It is almost all over now - bar the shouting.

In less than 24 hours time, polls will open and with a bit of luck we will be rid of the Lisbon Treaty for good and glory.

What did the poor citizens of the lovely Portuguese city of Lisbon ever do to deserve the cross of the Lisbon Treaty hanging around its neck.

How will the city ever try and rebuild its tourism business when all Irish people associate it with mind-numbing boredom?

Now that the campaign has come to an end - and it was a colourful at times - the young upstarts in Ogra Fianna Fail decided to try and have the last laugh with the anti-Treaty group Coir.

The lads and lassies from Ogra has awarded Coir with the prize for the Most Outrageous Lie of the Lisbon Campaign and the Coir monkey ‘Bananas’ was on hand to collect the prize.

They presented a cheque for €8.65 - the real minimum hourly wage in Ireland - to Coir for their ‘bananas’ lie that the Lisbon Treaty would result in a lowering of the minimum wage.

Despite plenty of competition on the No side of the debate, Ogra felt any other choice would just be ‘monkeying around’ after seeing the Coir posters.

Mick For President!

Like him or loathe him - Michael O’Leary is the real star of the Lisbon campaign.

Where would we be without his weekly pronouncements about our ‘incompetent and feckless Government’, the ‘losers’ on the No side and the ‘bearded brethren’ in the Trade Unions.

The Ryanair boss certainly livened up a debate which otherwise would have sent the people of the country packing as a rate faster than the speed of light.

This column loves the bold Michael O’Leary and our award for the best one-liner of the campaign goes to him and him only.

When talking about Sinn Fein’s motives in seeking a No vote, the king of the soundbites uttered a classic:

“If you go on Sinn Fein website they don’t have an economic policy - other than probably robbing banks.”

Mick for President!!

Dublin South Legends!

The constituency of Dublin South had plenty of reasons to celebrate over the past week.

The first was the publication of a book about the life of the late Fianna Fail Minister Seamus Brennan, written by his close friend and professional advisor Frank Lahiffe.

On hand to launch the book about the life of the gentleman politician was EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy.

Another focus of celebration in the constituency was the 25th anniversary of Fine Gale’s Alan Shatter (pictured) in politics.

Here's to the next 25 Alan!

Enda's Boots Were Made For Walking....

As Nancy Sinatra (or Jessica Simpson, depending on your age!) sang so well - ‘these boots are made for walking’ and in the case of Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, they certainly were.

Nobody could accuse the Fine Gael leader of being any kind of slouch in the run up to the Lisbon referendum.

In fact, Fine Gael are quick to point out that its national campaign has seen Enda embark on a 20 day countrywide tour that covered 6,000 kilometres, taking in 120 canvassing stops in a drive to secure a Yes vote.

And if that wasn’t enough, the party goes on to tell us that over 5,000 people have attended 43 Fine Gael meetings discussing the Treaty.

Over one million pieces of Lisbon literature have been distributed by Fine Gael.

What Are The Odds??

With Lisbon almost behind us, talk is now turning to the general election - which could happen sooner than you might think.

Paddy Power have further slashed the odds on an election taking place in Ireland this year from 11/8 to 11/10.

This latest cut was prompted after several large bets - including one of €2,000 - were placed over the weekend on a snap election taking place before the end of the year.

Betting is also available on whether the Green Party will remain in Government until the end of the year with Paddy Power offering odds of 8/11 for them to remain and even money to leave.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

NAMA-NAMA Numbers Game

So NAMA is the only show in town, is it?

Well it didn’t take long for some of the political wags to come up with their own version of how to fix Ireland’s economy.

The Internet is awash this week with a simple letter, purporting to be from the people of Ireland, to Taoiseach Brian Cowen with a few very novel ways of getting our finances back on track.

It goes something like this:

“Instead of giving €7bn to the Irish banks who will squander the money on lavish parties and unearned bonuses, use the following plan – you can call it the Republic Retirement Plan

“There are about one million people over the age of 50 in the work force. Pay them €7m apiece severance for early retirement with the following stipulations:

* they MUST retire – one million job openings, unemployment fixed!
* they MUST buy a new car – one million cars ordered, auto industry fixed!
* they MUST either buy a house or pay off their mortgage – housing crisis fixed!
* They MUST send their kids to school/college/university – crime rate fixed!
* they MUST buy €100 of alcohol/tobacco a week – and there is your
money back in duty/tax.”

We can laugh – but it makes more sense than some of the plans out there!

The Battle for Brussels

Once Lisbon is over and done with, the task will move on to who will replace Charlie McCreevy as Ireland’s Commissioner (if Lisbon is passed, that is!)

Champagne Charlie will retire from his gravy-train post at the end of this year and it is in Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s gift as to who his successor will be.

Given that the Government’s numbers in the Dail are getting tighter by the day, it is highly unlikely that he will send one of his loyal Dail foot soldiers over to take the job.

So who will get it?

Well the money seems to be on the two front-runners – former MEP Eoin Ryan and former EU Parliament President Pat Cox.

Bookies Paddy Power has reported significant interest in Ryan, who lost his seat in June’s local elections.

The 53-year-old Dubliner has been the subject of a sustained gamble which has seen his odds tumble from 7/1 to 7/2 second-favourite.

Pat Cox remains favourite but has eased slightly in Paddy Power’s betting from 11/10 to 5/4.

“According to the betting, it is all over bar the shouting for Lisbon and the shrewd punters have turned their attention to Charlie McCreevy’s successor with Eoin Ryan looking like the one to watch,” Power said.

Other names in the pot include Alan Dukes, Mary Harney, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, Dan Boyle, Dermot Ahern, Martin Cullen and even Bertie Ahern!

Chiarrai Abu!!!

It was with great national pride that Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin went along to Croke Park last Sunday for the All-Ireland final.

Besides the fact that he is a proud Cork man, he was also hosting the brightest and the best of Irish business at home and abroad at the game as part of the Global Irish Economic Forum.

But while the Forum has been considered a huge success, the trip to Croke Park for the Minister and his guests was not.

The people of Cork – the Minister included – may have believed that this year was the year that Sam would return to the banks of the Lee.

But they were sorely disappointed when the men from Kerry ran rings around them on the pitch.

Meanwhile, back in Leinster House – there are certain TDs of a Cork hue who will be running scared this week after being a bit too over-confident that their team would win.

To all those – and you know who you are – mine is a gin and tonic!!

Inglorious Gobshites???

Congratulations are again in order for the gang over at
who don’t let a failing economy get in the way of their sense of

This is the latest instalment of political humour in Ireland – if
Quentin Tarantino had directed the story of Fianna Fail!

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Irish 'Davos'

Our Government politicians will be out in force this weekend as Farmleigh plays host to the much-anticipated ‘Irish Davos’ - the first ever Global Irish Economic Forum.

While there will be much posturing and many pronouncements made, it seems that Ireland’s attempts at hosting a heavy-weight Economic Forum is on line to be a significant success.

More than 140 journalists from Irish, British, European, US and Japanese media outlets have been registered to cover the event.

Hosted by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the event will be attended by 180 members of the global Irish business community, the Cabinet and members of the opposition.

So interested is the media in the event that a special media centre has been set up in Farmleigh with broadcasters from not only the Irish stations but CNN, Bloomberg and Reuters covering the event as well.

As he is the host of the event, Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin has become a familiar face on CNN and Bloomberg news bulletins - normally the traditional home of figures such as President Barack Obama.

And it isn’t just business and political heavyweights who will be attending the Forum - the Irish in Hollywood will also be there with the presence of movie director Neil Jordan.

And just in case we think that this is yet another lavish gesture that the taxpayers will be footing the bill for - we are not as all those attending are funding their own travel arrangements for the weekend.

Moderators of the events will include CNN’s Fionnuala Sweeney (who once hosted the Eurovision in Ireland), Fergal Keane of the BBC, economist David McWilliams and RTE legend John Bowman.

Has the Bull lost his horns?

So John O’Donoghue is remaining tight-lipped about his lavish expenses while Minister for Fun! How times have changed.

It wasn’t that long ago when, as a member of Kerry County Council, John was more than vocal of his criticism of another Kerry
politician’s ‘lavish excess’.

When Dick Spring - as Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs - travelled to New York in the 1990s and opted to stay in the plush Waldorf Astoria rather than the Irish-owned Fitzpatrick’s Hotel - John couldn’t contain himself.

On several occasions in the Council chamber, John took a pop at Spring - who was once referred to by Willie O’Dea as ‘The Bollinger Bolshevick’ - for his decision to stay in the Waldorf as opposed to Fitzpatricks.

John was always good on the attack - ask poor Nora Owen who was often the subject of his maulings. She still has the scars to prove it!

But now that John has the office, cloak and chain of the Ceann Comhairle to hide behind, it seems the Biting Bulldog has turned into a Pampered Pooch.

Credit Crunchies

We have had ‘De Little Book of Bertie’ and now author Will Hanafin gives is his ‘Credit Crunchies’ - an hilarious collection of REAL quotes made by some of top politicians and bankers.

And some of them are right clangers!

Like Brian Cowen’s plans to get the economy back on track - ‘Taking some steps back so we can go forward again’.

And his plan for some decisive action - ‘To identify the problem that is there and park it somewhere else so we can deal with it over a longer period’!

There are also some gems from the bankers who have become notorious over the past 12 months, such as that by disgraced former Anglo chief Sean Fitzpatrick.

“It is well known that I take a fair bit of time off during the year. But I think it is a fair return for the very long hours that I put
in.... and for the loneliness and pressure of continuing to overachieve.”

Or what about Sean’s infamous interview with Marian Finucane after the bank guarantee scheme was introduced: “I can’t say sorry with any degree of sincerity and decency but I do say thank you.”!