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.