THERE was gridlock on the roads, motorways and boreens leading to Ratheniska yesterday. The traffic was banjaxed, bumper-to-bumper, up in a heap, in a state of chassis.
And that was just the posse of politicians heading to Co Laois.
Maybe it was the benign weather. Or perhaps it was the benign vibes which had emanated from the massive 81,000-strong multitude wandering contentedly the previous day around the pop-up metropolis that is the Ploughing Championship, but a veritable convoy of cabinet ministers stampeded on to the site yesterday like a herd of eager wildebeest, wellies in one hand and rural family-tree in the other.
However, the leader of the pack was former junior minister Lucinda Creighton who dwells in that well-known rural constituency, Dublin Bay South.
Lucinda had dropped by the RTE outside broadcast studio to announce to Sean O'Rourke that the new Reform Alliance (RA) gang would be opposing the abolition of the Seanad in next week's referendum, saying she was unimpressed that ex-boss Enda was balking at participating in a Seanad debate. "I think the Taoiseach is very motivated by this, I think that he has genuine conviction on it. My view is that if you have a passionate view about something you get out and debate it," she reckoned.
Shortly afterwards Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, who dwells in that well-known rural constituency Dublin West, materialised. And what brought Joan to the farming festival? "The department plays a huge role in the life of rural and urban communities," she announced.
Aha, that explained it.
Then Joan went for a walkabout, stopping every few yards to have her photo taken with passers-by. And who did she bump into outside the Enterprise Ireland marquee, except her colleagues, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, who were about to embark on a canvass for the Seanad.
There were various TDs milling about too, and a gaggle of them posed for photos. "Has Movember come early?" a grinning Simon asked the newly bearded Labour TD Arthur Spring, while Joan admired the big blue rosette pinned to the Ag Minister's lapel. Labour senator John Phelan, who is opposing the abolition of his place of work, leaned over. "I've a Vote No rosette here for you," he said naughtily to her.
Then Richard Bruton went for a wander through the mind-bogglingly enormous crowd (the main Champs Elysee-style boulevard running through the centre of the site looked like Christmas Eve on Dublin's Henry Street, minus the wrappin' paper).
Richard occasionally remembered to hand out Seanad leaflets. One auld lad took a leaflet and loudly promised to vote Yes. "And after that we could get rid of more of ye," he enthused.
What was remarkable was the lack of dog's abuse meted out to the plethora of politicians as they strolled about. If farming is going through a rough spell and the farmers are feeling hard done by, then this mighty agri-fest can be an inhospitable place.
But yesterday the crowd was as mellow as the weather. For let's face it – if any single minister was going to find himself at the sharp end of a barracking, it's the Health Minister – particularly given the various fraught hospital closures across the country. But even James Reilly was left alone as he and his wife Dorothy walked around in search of a wood mulcher and some wooden fencing.
"A fox got our hens and ducks," explained Dorothy, who added she wasn't surprised that her husband could wander about unbothered. "He's not always recognised – one man shouted through his car window and asked if he was the Bomber Liston," she said.
But there was one man who was even more popular than the politicians – and that was Marty Morrissey. The sports presenter bumped into Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and the pair posed for photos together.
But as soon as the broadcaster stepped away, he was prompted inundated by people clamouring for pictures and autographs, while Micheal was left with a more modest group.
Politicians are grand and dandy, but they're nothing compared to Mega-Watt Marty.