Ministers spread far and wide for holidays
France, Italy, US and Connemara are among Cabinet destinations
THE choice of holiday destination of our exalted political leaders is a source of constant fascination and the Sunday Independent can reveal where members of the Cabinet are recharging their batteries.
From Portugal to France and from Wales to the United States, ministers have gone to a wide variety of destinations and will be in absentia for most of August.
According to well-placed sources, however, the two Brians are remaining in Ireland for the duration of their break.
The Taoiseach Brian Cowen is taking most of August off to enjoy the sights and sounds of Connemara with his wife Mary and their two children.
Mr Cowen has headed for his favourite haunt of Ballyconnelly, where he has a holiday home and can enjoy a round of golf.
Brian Lenihan, the Finance Minister and the one who is most in need of rest and recuperation, is also holidaying around Ireland.
His only confirmed diary appointment this month will be his keynote address at Beal na mBlath on August 22, marking the anniversary of the death of Michael Collins. He will be the first Fianna Fail minister ever to deliver the address.
Health Minister Mary Harney went to New York late last month and came back a couple of days ago. She is also due to head to France this weekend and will remain there for the rest of August.
Tanaiste and Education Minister Mary Coughlan has gone to Estoril in Portugal while Eamon O Cuiv is holidaying in Milwaukee, USA.
'Minister for Fun' Mary Hanafin is said to be sharing her holiday time between the US and Italy, where she has gone in recent years.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern has made his way to France, where he has a holiday home.
The Green ministers are not as exotic in their choice of holiday destinations. Environment Minister John Gormley is holidaying in Wales while Communications Minister Eamon Ryan and his young family are island-hopping in the West.
Government Chief Whip John Curran, who has endured a hard session since his appointment, is relaxing in the picturesque surrounds of west Kerry.
Following his controversial use of the government jet, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey is the man holding the fort and has no clear holiday plans.
Mr Dempsey came in for considerable flak when he spent his holidays in sunny Malta during the 'big freeze' of last January.
Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keefe is also said to be staying at home in Ballincollig, Co Cork, looking after some constituency matters.
When we asked where members of the Cabinet were going last weekend, we were met with stony silence from the various ministers' press offices, but the Sunday Independent has been able to verify the destinations of choice of our leaders.
While there is little complaint about the mass exodus of our Cabinet by opposition leaders -- who themselves feel deserving of a break -- many outside politics, particularly business owners, are angered by the routine August shutdown.
The Dail closed at the beginning of July for a summer recess that will end in the last week of September.
The Government has also had its last cabinet meeting and will not meet again until September 1.