Thursday, January 28, 2010

Facebooking Politicians!

It seems our politicians are taking a leaf out of US President Barack Obama’s book and setting up an online presence.

Over the past two weeks, it seems that Fianna Fail has taken over Facebook the popular social networking site.

And it seems to be doing the trick of getting their message across to a targeted audience.

The only Minister currently engaging in active Facebook-ing is Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin.

He only went ‘live’ in the past two weeks but already he has built up a substantial Facebook presence with almost 450 ‘friends’.

He is using his page as an information focal point for his work, often updating it several times a day.

The page is also being used to cleverly circulate press releases and updates from the Minister.

Another Fianna Fail TD who is Facebook-ing a lot these days is Meath East TD Thomas Byrne.

Thomas is also using the page as a focal point for information for his constituents, giving them updates about road improvements and giving people a chance to quiz him on what matters to them.

John McGuinness is a man who has also taken to this Facebook phenomenon and again is using it as an information point for his constituency.

And then there are the political groups – Young Fine Gael, Ogra Fianna Fail, Labour etc. They are all getting in on the act.

There was once a time when Facebook was just a college version of Bebo. But it seems that our politicians know it is far more than that and are tapping into the benefits of it.

Training For Life!

It is lovely to know that politicians – no matter how high on the political ladder they climb – don’t spoil their kids with material goods.

Take former Taoiseach and elder Statesman Garret FitzGerald – he came up with a novel way of keeping his son, John, entertained when he fell ill as a young boy.

John – who is better known to all as the wise sage at the helm of the ESRI – recalls a time when he was sick.

“I remember being sick at the age of ten and he gave me a train timetable and told me to work out how many trains I could get to Galway from Dublin and back, and to design an underground for Dublin and gave me the London metro map.”

“He made me think that was an interesting thing to do that as a child. I was enthusiastic about, this was entertainment.”

Poor Pat Puts People To Sleep!

And they say that the business of the Dail isn’t boring?

Tell that to the man who quite literally fell asleep in the visitors’ gallery during Questions to the Taoiseach on Tuesday afternoon.

Because of the goings on in the North of Ireland, Taoiseach Brian Cowen wasn’t in the Dail on Tuesday so his role for Questions to the Taoiseach was taken by Chief Whip Pat Carey.

As Pat spoke about the census and what will and will not be included in it, one man sitting right at the front of the public gallery found it a bit too taxing and promptly fell asleep.

A vigilant Dail usher managed to wake the man but minutes later, he was asleep again and had a right hold snooze until Pat Carey’s business was over and done with.

It was former Labour leader Pat Rabbitte who once famously claimed that ‘only drunks and insomniacs’ watched late-night parliamentary TV coverage.

Have things gotten so bad now that the goings-on in the Dail are an instant cure for insomniacs?!

Twit's A Simple Mistake

Ooops!! It seems the Labour Party has been a wee bit tongue tied this week.

Apart from leader Eamon Gilmore addressing Tanaiste Mary Coughlan as Taoiseach during Leaders Questions on Tuesday, the twitterers within the ranks also got the Tanaiste’s title slightly confused as well this week.

The Labour Party is really getting into this Twittering lark (still confuses me!) and on Tuesday afternoon the Labour tweet read: ‘Leaders Questions being taken by the Tanaisten (sic) as Cowen is in the North’.

But the clever lads and ladies at Labour HQ quickly saw the error of their ways and rapidly re-tweeted with the correct spelling – Tanaiste.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Guilty until proven innocent?

At long last - Gardai will soon have the right to take DNA samples from convicted criminals and those suspected or charged with a serious offence.

Why Ireland Inc waited so long for this measure to be brought it is anyone’s business. But now that it is almost here, it is a move that has to be welcomed.

But one Fianna Fail TD has stuck his neck on the line when it comes to the new DNA database - he believes that everyone should have to give a sample from the get-go.

Deputy Brendan Kenneally is chairman of the Oireachtas Justice Committee so he has his finger on the pulse of all things right and wrong in the eyes of the law.

But his proposal to take samples from everyone - regardless of their status under law - is sure to raise eyebrows and cause some controversy.

He said he sees no reason why the State can’t keep everyone’s DNA on file for use in crime solving.

“If everyone;s DNA records were available for this purpose, crime and organised crime would be crippled in this country,” he said.

“The criminals would have no where to hide and the amount of unsolved crimes, including murders, would also be slashed.”

The term ‘guilty until proved innocent’ is starting to creep in here.

He says as long as measures were taken so the DNA was only used to solve crimes, law abiding citizens would have nothing to fear from this measure.

“This system would help us know who was on the scene of practically every crime and that would make it very difficult for any criminal to get away with their actions, which would surely be better for the country,” he said.

Many in favour of an all-in DNA database will say ‘sure I have nothing to hide so I have nothing to fear’.

But the debate goes far beyond that - first DNA, what next? Microchipping?

I am no conspiracy theorist but I plan on keeping my DNA all to myself and I’m certain that this is a view held by a wide section of Irish society.

After all, we are all innocent until proven guilty.

Operation Menu Transformation

This whole fitness lark seems to have take over Leinster House and we have the great G. Ryan to blame for it - thanks to his Operation Transformation series.

This year, for the first time, a group of TDs and Senators are taking part in the challenge to shed a few pounds.

And it seems that they are being given every help and encouragement along the way thanks to the fine staff of the Leinster House restaurant.

Every day, the menu for lunch contains at least one ‘Operation Transformation’ special - meaning it is low in fat, low in calories and is heart-healthy.

Even certain salads in the salad bar contain a sign saying ‘OT’ - meaning it is Operation Transformation approved.

The challenge is only one week in but I can confirm that none of the part-taking TDs or Senators were spotted in the restaurant tucking into chips and cakes.

Keep up the good work!

Mooney Tunes!

There was a warm welcome in the Seanad this week for well-known journalist and broadcaster Paschal Mooney has he was elected in the by-election following the untimely death of Senator Peter Callanan.

The count took place in Leinster House on Tuesday morning and Mooney was elected on the first count with 114 votes, ensuring his return to the Seanad on the Agricultural Panel.

The County Leitrim native received the unanimous nomination of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party to stand in the by-election after receiving more than 48,000 votes in last June’s European Elections.

Senator Mooney lives in Drumshambo in Co Leitrim with his wife Sheila and their five children.

Welcome back Senator Mooney!

Holiday time for The Bert!

Ever wonder what a former Taoiseach gets up to in his spare time?

Well apart from writing his autobiography and giving interviews left, right and centre, it seems Bertie Ahern has found time for another gig.

Tomorrow, Bertie will be on hand to officially open the Holiday World Show in the RDS.

So if you are planning an escape from a country that is on its knees, Bertie will be at the Holiday World Show to give you a few tips on where to go!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Don't Shoot the Messenger Noel!

Shoot the messenger - that is obviously what Fianna Fail’s Noel Treacy likes to do when quizzed about his high expenses.

For when asked about being the highest claimant in the Dail (last year he claimed €95,233 between expenses and allowances), the bold Noel tried to turn the tables on the journalists who simply reported the fact.

He claims there is a constant promotion through the media that politicians are getting lumps of cash, tax-free, into their back pockets.

“It is a constant incitement to public anger against politicians, which is totally unfair,” he says.

So he tried to crank up the rant machine inside him and have a go at the hacks who work out of Leinster House to bring the people of Ireland the news of what our politicians are up to.

First off he cribs about the fact that there are so many journalists accredited to Leinster House.

Well here’s a fact Noel - take it as a compliment that so many journalists are eager to cover the comings and goings of what goes on in our corridors of power.

He then goes on to say that journalists are provided with a range of free facilities at Leinster House, such as car parking, office space, phones, faxes, emails, computers and office facilities.

Well Noel, on behalf of the reporters who actually work out of Leinster House (a small fraction of those accredited) - that is not exactly true!

Let’s see: car parking - nope, not all journalists are entitled to a car parking space. In fact only a tiny minority enjoy this entitlement. I certainly don’t.

Now on to the other so-called perks that seem to irk the Deputy from East Galway. Yes we have access to email ON OUR MOBILE PHONES and faxes are an out-dated luxury enjoyed by only a handful of journalists.

And now to the crucial point - the fact that journalists have office space and computers in Leinster House.

What democratic parliament anywhere else in the world does not have press facilities for journalists? Would you rather we work out in the street? Or would you rather we ignore the goings on in Leinster House completely?

So Noel, before you start whining about the manner in which the media report on the tax-free expenses and allowances that politicians get - engage the brain a bit and maybe concentrate on ways to reform the system.

Thankfully we live in a democracy that enjoys a free press. And we will continue reporting on the expenses and allowances paid to politicians - like it or not.

And as for the reporting of TDs’ expenses and allowances being a ‘constant incitement to public anger against politicians’ - are you having a laugh?!

Some politicians are capable of doing that all by themselves!

Dukes Down on the Farm

A life in politics can be a busy one but a life after politics can be very hectic.

Take former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes - he has hardly had time to rest on his laurels since leaving politics.

He retired from politics in 2002 after losing his seat and was subsequently appointed Director General of the Institute of International and European Affairs.

In December 2008, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan appointed him as a public interest director on the board of Anglo Irish Bank - so her certainly has had his hands full with that.

And the latest string to his bow? He is now a judge on the TG4 farming entertainment competition Feirm Factor.

Just who knew Alan was such a multi-tasker!

It's A Healthy Cause

The time has come and a group of brave TDs and Senators are preparing for full public scrutiny in their battle to shed a few pounds (in weight!)

The first installment of RTE’s Operation Transformation aired last night and as part of this series, some politicians will be following the expert tips to kick bad eating and health habits for the New Year in the full glare of the public.

One politician taking part is inviting the public to follow her progress on social networking site - Senator Phil Prendergast.

She will be sharing her experience of following a strict weight-loss and fitness programme for the next two months and she is hoping to raise a few bob for charity along the way.

She is looking for sponsors to help raise money for the Place4U project in Clonmel, which is a youth cafe, a drop-in centre for older people and will offer other community facilities.

You can follow Phil’s progress on Facebook and twitter (

Still Waiting for a Date.

It is hardly surprising that the Government is dragging its feet in setting a date for the Donegal by-election to replace Pat The Cope Gallagher following his election to the European Parliament.

Anyone with even a passing interest in politics knows that the chance of a sitting Government winning a by-election is almost as rare as a Minister cutting short his holidays to respond to a national emergency.

Sinn Fein Senator Pearse Doherty led the charge this week to put pressure on the Government, claiming that his constituency needs full representation of three seats in the Dail.

Doherty himself will be the Sinn Fein candidate and his chances are good judging by his performance in the 2007 general election.

Next off the blocks is Fine Gael - they will be selecting their candidate on the day after Valentine’s Day.

All that remains now is for the Government is to name the date!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Kitt of Fun!

Politics loss may be the music industry’s gain as one of the gentlemen of the Fianna Fail party is taking to a stage of a totally different kind - playing as part of a big band.

Former Chief Whip and Junior Minister Tom Kitt is no stranger to the world of music.

Before he became a household name in Leinster House, Tom was an accomplished musician and used to teach the guitar to children in the Ballinteer area of South Dublin.

And he is the father of a very musical family.

Son David Kitt is an award-winning musician with six albums under his belt already.

Second son Thomas has just released his debut album appropriately titled ‘Kitt Happens’ and third son Robbie who, while still at college, is no stranger to taking to the stage with his two brothers.

But now Tom Snr has joined forces with the famous ‘Money Doctor’ John Lowe and his band, The Heartbeats, for a series of free gigs in Dublin’s Harcourt Hotel.

Tom will be taking to the stage tonight (THURS) with the big band to perform a selection of well known tunes from the past (The Eagles, Creedence Clearwater Revival) and the present (Paulo Nutini).

“It is a bit of fun really. It is just a group of friends getting together and playing music,” Tom said.

Tom has performed with The Heartbeats on two previous occasions - in November and December and will perform with them again on the first Thursday in February.

On his debut with The Heartbeats, the wider Kitt family decided to surprise Tom by taking to the stage with him.

Joined by sons David, Thomas and Robbie - the Kitt family performed the Jackie Wilson classic ‘You’re Love Is Lifting Me Higher’.

“That went down very well,” he said.

And the good news in this time of recession - the gig tonight in the Harcourt Hotel is totally free!

It’s nice to see a politician giving something back to the people!!

Long Lost Brothers?

One is a man who was involved in a war that killed thousands - the other is former US President George W. Bush!

While Martin McGuinness and Dubya are not exactly twins, there is no mistaking the resemblance between the two men - especially with the passing of time.

Some Cheer For 'Handsome' Brian

Here’s something to give Finance Minister Brian Lenihan a bit of a laugh as he embarks on a long and arduous journey in his battle against cancer.

It seems that our Minister has become a bit of a sex-symbol!!

The level of support and good will out there for Brian Lenihan over the past fortnight has been unprecedented. As the Facebook site says - Politics Aside, We Wish Brian Lenihan Well.

One poster even went so far as to describe him as ‘our handsome Finance Minister’!

Well thankfully, our ‘handsome’ Finance Minister is a man with a good sense of humour and a rosy outlook on life. And he is confident that his handsome looks won’t suffer from the treatment that lies ahead.

“The advice is that the famous dark and indestructible hair of mine is not going to be destroyed by this treatment,” he said.

This column wishes the Minister every good wish in the tough times ahead.

A Shopping Slip-Up!

Ouch - that must have been the expression of Green Party TD Ciaran Cuffe as he hit the deck on a shopping trip earlier this week.

While most people around the country are nursing bruises and sprains thanks to the inclement weather conditions, Ciaran Cuffe is feeling the pain as well.

But it is not the ice that is to blame for Ciaran’s mishap - it was the stairs in a clothing shop in Blackrock!

He tweeted on Monday: “Bruised ribs from smashing to the ground. Icy footpath? No. Stairs in NEXT in Blackrock Shopping Centre.”

That is proof positive that shopping is indeed a dangerous pastime!