Monday 26 September 2016

No muck sticks to Gerry as TDs ditch Ploughing festival chic and arrive without their wellies

Published 22/09/2016 | 02:30

Dan O’Driscoll from Bandon with his grandson Cian Harrington who was in the Macra competition. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Dan O’Driscoll from Bandon with his grandson Cian Harrington who was in the Macra competition. Picture; Gerry Mooney

The rain was a solid sheet, the steel paths were doing little to keep the mud at bay - and all the politicians had forgotten their wellies.

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Enda's shoes were destroyed with muck and his blue suit trousers were trailing. He won't be popular down at the drycleaners.

RTÉ’s Ryan Tubridy hopped into a tractor to plough his first furrow at the Ploughing Show in Tullamore, which drew a crowd of 111,000. Photo: Gerry Mooney
RTÉ’s Ryan Tubridy hopped into a tractor to plough his first furrow at the Ploughing Show in Tullamore, which drew a crowd of 111,000. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Micheál's were almost as bad.

But Gerry. Not a speck of muck seemed to stick to Gerry. It was most remarkable.

Day two of the National Ploughing Championships saw 111,000 flock to the site at Screggan, Co Offaly. The figures were down on the same day last year, when 127,000 came on the second day - though an organiser said they were still up, when you combine the figures from the opening day.

There was much excitement over Ryan Tubridy's appearance - having been cohered by Managing Director Anna Mae McHugh herself into trying his hand at the plough.

Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin with Tipperary senior hurlers Brian, John and Noel McGrath. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin with Tipperary senior hurlers Brian, John and Noel McGrath. Photo: Gerry Mooney

"Yes, I'm South Dublin on a stick," he admitted - but at least he was willing to try.

In very appropriate green overalls, he hopped up into the blue Ford, drove a single line - and loved it.

Anna Mae declared it a marvellous attempt - but Tubridy wasn't buying it.

"That is like a drunken man," he declared cheerfully as he eyed his slightly dodgy furrow.

Legendary GAA commentator Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh was there - and is putting his money on Mayo to win the replay.

"They were full of fire at the finish the last day," he reckoned, while Dublin seemed "tired."

Micheál Martin was the first of the politicians to arrive. "We're back," a man barked at him in triumph at the Fianna Fail tent, clapping him on the shoulder.

"Hopefully," said Micheál.

He even got an old style party 'whoop' - not heard since the boomier days of Bertie. Those who had stayed away in recent years are indeed 'back' - and not just for the free tea and biscuits. Or even the free copies of the Proclamation made available.

There was a hooley going on in the Sinn Féin tent which was physically heaving, with Come Out Ye Black and Tans blaring through the tannoy system.

Amid a media scrum, Gerry Adams stood outside in his brown shoes, shined to a military mirror polish, to yet again repudiate claims about his past.

A BBC Spotlight programme heard from a former IRA member turned British agent who alleged Adams sanctioned the murder of MI5 spy, Denis Donaldson.

"Lies," declared Adams. "It's wrong. I repudiate it, deny it absolutely and categorically and specifically," he said.

Asked if he will speak to the police if they wish him to, he replied: "Absolutely, of course I will."

Then he wandered into the Sinn Féin tent to enjoy the hooley, still apparently and astonishingly muck-free.

Fine Gael were taking advantage of the inclement conditions, handing out party political blue plastic ponchos.

Enda ended up spending the whole day in Screggan and was up first to inspect the ploughing.

There were selfies, chats and photo ops when little 14-month-old Chloe Mahon from Offaly took a tumble and was whooshed up in the Taoiseach's arms.

He had lunch with Anna Mae McHugh at the Ploughing Championship HQ - giving the rain enough time to get nice and wet - before he went out to do what he came for - pressing the flesh with a vengeance.

He had a high five from Sarah Guerin (10) from Killorglin, Co Kerry and he spoke earnestly about what a bad year it had been for farmers.

There was a bit about the threat of Brexit. "From the Irish point of view we're at a very critical juncture," Enda warned.

He told his loyal party faithful in the Fine Gael tent that "I intend to lead the country," in a message that will be heard far beyond Screggan.

Michelle Mulherin was playing it coy in a grey wide-brimmed hat.

Read more: What legendary GAA commentator Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh predicts for the All-Ireland replay

Asked if she had a ticket for the All Ireland, she stiffened and said: "I think that's been well covered."

But yes, she was 'on the lookout' for the replay.

Enda dropped into the IFA and Macra tents, checked out a Round Bail Transporter invented by Tom Carrian from Kilkenny and obligingly held up a 'Brainstorm', poster for Rachel Mullane and Mairead Barrett from Askeaton, Co Limerick, who are doing a school project on acquired brain injury.

They squealed in delight at the unexpected celebrity enforcement.

The veteran 'voice of the ploughing' Carrie Atkinson was back on the tannoy system - scolding children for getting separated from school tours and wishing the Taoiseach luck for Mayo in the All Ireland replay.

In the Offaly tent, the Taoiseach picked up a guitar, joking afterwards: "A blast of the air guitar there."

But no dancing, regretfully.

"My husband was a Fine Gael voter," said a woman in the crowd.

"But he hasn't stopped giving out yards since Enda was elected," she added.

She only hoped he would 'go before he was pushed,' she mused.

His last visit was a poignant stop off at the Coastguard unit from Killaloe, Co Clare.

The Taoiseach expressed his condolences at the death of coastguard Caitríona Lucas and thanked them for their service.

"Volunteers give so much of their time for nothing," he said, adding that herein lies the strength of our communities.

Irish Independent

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