Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Winning Mile?

A word of warning to any ageists out there - never say that Maurice Ahern is too old to be running for the Dail!

Any whipper-snapper out there who believes that at the age of 70, Maurice should retire any thoughts about a Dail career is invited to meet up with him and ‘run it off’ over ten miles to see who is right and who is wrong!

My money is on Maurice!

Canvassing can be gruelling for many politicians but Maurice is taking it all in his stride in the Dublin Central by-election - after all, he is a master of 12 marathons.

And the Flying Drumcondra man was also shortlisted to represent Ireland in the Olympics in 1968.

At a stage in life when most people start to feel the pangs of wear and tear, Maurice is like a whippet out for his daily run every day.

“I do five miles most days of the week. Friday is my doss day - I only do about a mile just to keep it up,” he told this column.

“Naturally, I have had a few injuries down through the years but I have been very lucky that none of them have been serious.

For years we have known that sport has been as important as religion in the Ahern household in Drumcondra. So you can imagine that an Olympic medal would have shared pride of place with the Child of Prague on the mantlepiece there.

But Maurice - who coaches members of Clonliffe Harriers every Saturday - has no regrets.

“I came sixth in the Olympic trials and the first three went on to compete in the Olympics. I wasn’t that disappointed. That is the thing about running - sometimes you can have a good race and other times you don’t perform as well,” he said.

His place in the Olympics made have eluded him back in 1968 but he is hoping that his place in Dail Eireann will be in his hands when the votes are counted on June 6.

Rugby Nuts!

Ireland has gone completely rugby nuts over the past week thanks in no small part to a piece of silverware called the Heineken Cup!

While this column believes that Munster was robbed in the semi-final, we are big enough to congratulate the Leinster lads on a job well done.

Rugby is played in over 100 countries across the world but did you know that Dublin is the head office for the Lions Tour?

I didn’t, until it was brought to my attention by Fianna Fail MEP Eoin Ryan who is a bit of a rugby buff himself!

“Our city is the centre of international decision making for the game,” he proudly said after laying his hands on the Heineken Cup over the weekend.

And he wants to spread the love - by getting increased funding for schools rugby in areas of Dublin not traditionally associated with the game.

“Now is the time to capitalise on the huge success of Irish and Leinster rugby, by taking the game into areas of Dublin such as Tallaght / Clondalkin, Coolmine and Blanchardstown / Finglas where rugby hasn’t been developed.”

“The interest in playing rugby by schoolchildren is growing in these areas and funding from EU sport grants can be used to develop the game to support these clubs,” he said.

Will They Ever Learn?

Will they ever learn? Every year the same problem arises and every year there is no solution to it.

Labour’s Neasa Childers has raised the valid point that many disabled people won’t be able to vote on June 5 - simply because their local polling stations are inaccessible for wheelchairs,

“It is simply unacceptable in this day and age. It is the constitutional right and civic duty of everybody to vote and the various authorities should do everything they can to ensure that people are facilitated to the greatest extent possible,” she said.

Maybe this year, all voting stations will be wheelchair accessible? Or pigs might fly?

There's One In Every Campaign!

There’s always one!

Dublin South candidate in the by-election, Independent Ross O’Mullane said he is planning to steal the election with his cunning plan!

He said he was having a moment to himself while reading and looking at the election coverage in the paper when he saw a giant photo of Alkex White getting a hair cut beside a picture of Enda Kenny holding a hurley.

"And I realised politics isn't about a brilliant idea - who cares about brilliant ideas? Politics isn't about reforming an inefficient system - sure what good would that do? Politics is about getting your picture in the paper!"

Got it in one Ross!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Political Babyface!

It has long been said that politics is ‘show business for ugly people’ and judging by some of the election posters blotting the landscape at the moment, never a truer word has been said.

But one local election candidate has taken a novel approach to asking for people to vote for him - substituting his photo for a photo of him when he was just three years of age!!

Cllr Niall ‘Botty’ O’Callaghan has been an Independent member of Killarney Town Council for the past five years and is going for re-election on June 5.

Botty’s fan base spreads far and wide - thanks in no small part to the fact that he has been one of Kerry’s most popular faces for the past decade and the fact that he has made some splash since dipping his toe in the political waters.

In last weekend’s Killarney Advertiser, Botty (no, I’m not being rude or disrespectful - that is what he has been known as for years) placed an ad calling on the people of Killarney to vote for him.

And the ad certainly caught the attention of many - bearing the simple message ‘Vote for Me - I haven’t changed...” under an adorable photo of a young Botty in a pair of short trousers and wellies.

While most people knew at first glance that it was Botty in the picture - others were left wondering and even went to the trouble of phoning the offices of the Killarney Advertiser to find out who was the cute little lad in the ad.

When asked about his unusual choice of campaign advertising, Botty simply replied: “It is true - I haven’t changed.”

“The ad did catch a lot of people by surprise. A lot recognised me straight away. More put one and one together and when they saw the word ‘Independent’ on the ad, they realised it was me.”

“But there were others who didn’t have a clue and were phoning the Advertiser to find out who it was. It was the talk of the town,” he said.

Spot The Difference

Some political critics have claimed in the past that there is practically no difference between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael - and if last Sunday’s Week in Politics on RTE is anything to go by, they are spot on.

Two of the guests on the show for a face-off with each other was Fine Gael’s attack-dog-in-chief Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fail’s leader-in-waiting Micheal Martin.

While both were a match for each other verbally, both were also a match for each other physically thanks to their wardrobe!

Both men looked impeccable in matching suits, matching shirts and matching red ties.

So tell me again, what exactly is the difference between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael??!!

Climbing The Poles

Back on the subject of election posters, it is refreshing to see a candidate actually getting their hands dirty putting up posters.

All too often we see teams of young lads and lassies climbing poles and trees to hang posters for candidates that they might never have met.

So full marks to Sinn Fein’s candidate in the Dublin South by-election, Shaun Tracey, who was spotted hanging his own posters close to the Carrickmines Retail Park last Friday!!

Gloomy Election Betting

If the elections bore you to tears, there is some fun to be had out of the election betting and some of the weird and wacky odds being given by the bookies.

The latest wacky one comes compliments of Paddy Power who is offering odds on who George Lee will upset next!

The Gloomy One has already ruffled some political feathers by calling for the Seanad to be scrapped.

With Lee now gaining as many enemies as he has fans, bookies Paddy Power have opened betting on who the doom and gloom merchant will upset next.

Nightly News’ Vincent Browne is 9/4 to have a run in with Lee while RTE’s Joe Duffy and fellow ‘man of the people’ could have a few cross words at 3/1.

It’s a less likely 12 /1 that Lee will upset the apple cart of fellow economist David McWilliams.

Election Challenge To Wheel 'Em In

We all love an election challenge and the latest one comes from Labour’s Euro candidate Susan O’Keeffe who has challenged Health Minister Mary Harney to take a bus ride with her.

But this is no trip along Route 66, but along the route from Glencolmcille in Co Donegal to Galway - the route that the Minister now wants cancer patients in the North West to take when they need treatment in UCHG.

“I challenge Minister Harney, a healthy woman by all accounts, to come with me and take that bus journey. Give it a go Minister,” said Susan.

“Afterwards, tell us if you still think that it is appropriate that, say an elderly patient requiring cancer care, be forced to sit on a bus for hours, before receiving treatment and getting back on the bus for the return journey.”

Friday, May 1, 2009

From Russia With Love

Failte go Luxembourg, Comrade!

Russia’s Foreign Minister could have been forgiven for thinking his pilots had got their map reading wrong, when he emerged from his Government jet in Luxembourg to get a red carpet greeting by our own Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin.

Minister Sergey Lavrov got a warm Cead Mile Failte to Luxembourg from Minister Martin in an encounter that would normally take months of frantic diplomatic efforts.

The chance meeting happened when the arrival of the Russian Minister coincided with the departure of Minister Martin from EU talks back to Ireland.

Both men literally bumped into each other on the runway and warmly exchanged greetings.

All waiting Luxembourg officials could do was watch on from the terminal building.

Minister Lavrov is hotly tipped as a future Russian leader and a friend that many nations have been courting, however most of Minister Martin’s EU colleagues missed their chance by leaving the Luxembourg talks early.

Last September the Russian was in Dublin for lengthy talks with Micheal Martin on a range of issues including new business opportunities for Irish companies, which will help secure jobs at home.

This was later followed up with an Enterprise Ireland Investment Conference which was attended by the Russian deputy Prime Minister.

Airport summits between both countries have a colourful history with Boris Yeltsin famously failing to emerge from his jet at Shannon – but this weeks runway encounter shows Moscow’s diplomacy now comes ‘From Russia with Love’!

Cead Mile Failte!

Leinster House had an international feel to it this week as it played host to a group of new Irish who are standing in the forthcoming elections.

They come from as far a-field as Nigeria and Poland yet many of them are hotly tipped to win seats on local councils throughout the country.

On arrival in Leinster House, they were greeted by Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue and Minister of State with responsibility for Integration, John Curran.

“In a short space of time, the number of foreign-born people has risen to about 15% of our total population,” Deputy O’Donoghue said.

“Neighbours from the EU form a majority of this growth but we also have people from nearly 190 countries now living and working here and today diversity has touched our society at all levels.”

He said it is right and timely that we acknowledge the efforts and commitment of individuals and parties in Leinster House and across the country in promoting active political participation of the new Irish and many immigrants in the Irish political system and to recognise those immigrants who are seeking to serve their communities in the forthcoming local elections.

Let the Canvass Begin!

And they’re off – with the local and European elections in just over a month, candidates of all shapes, sizes, political colours and hue have started the great marathon to get votes.

You will see the posters on the lamp posts, you will see the fliers in your letterbox and you will be spammed on the internet to within an inch of your life.

But what has happened to good, old-fashioned canvassing? Has it died a death along with the e-voting machines?

During the last general election campaign – only two candidates knocked on my door in the evening time.

The countdown has started in advance of June 5 and the title of First Candidate to Knock on My Door goes to Labour’s Veronica O’Doherty.

How many will follow? I will be counting!

Saucer of Milk, Girls!!!

The claws are certainly out among the women in the Euro elections.

The latest handbag attack comes from Green Senator Deirdre de Burca who has claimed that her Fine Gael nemesis in the Euro elections, Mairead McGuinness, is ripping off her posters!!

“They obviously like my style,” said de Burca, referring to an ad in a newspaper for McGuinness which mirrored her own election posters.

“I’m quite flattered that Fine Gael has decided to use a similar poster campaign to my own.”

“The Green Party always advocates reusing and recycling where possible – so I commend their decision to imitate my own,” she said.

Saucer of milk for Senator de Burca!!