Thursday 27 July 2017

A dash of B*Witched mixed with 'Maniac 2000' - just throw in the Taoiseach and you get Coppers

In the era of ‘new politics’, Independent TDs Michael Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath managed to slip past security at Coppers to celebrate with Leo Varadkar. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
In the era of ‘new politics’, Independent TDs Michael Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath managed to slip past security at Coppers to celebrate with Leo Varadkar. Picture: Kyran O'Brien
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

In some ways it was the perfect, if somewhat unexpected, place to mark the 'shifting' of power from one generation to the next.

Brian Cowen was paraded on the back of a truck in Offaly. There were bonfires waiting for Enda Kenny when he came off the government jet in Mayo. And Leo Varadkar? Well, the 38-year-old was féted in one of Dublin's most infamous nightclubs, Copper Face Jacks.

There were no guards or nurses at the private party to mark his ascension to the office of Taoiseach. Instead the Harcourt Street club was crammed with TDs, senators, councillors and Fine Gael workers when the Cabinet arrived after its first meeting.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring, Arts Minister Heather Humphreys and Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy mingled with super junior ministers Mary Mitchell O'Connor and Paul Kehoe and Chief Whip Joe McHugh.

And in the era of 'new politics', Independent TDs Michael Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath managed to slip past security.

It had been a busy day for everyone, especially the new Taoiseach. Aside from two visits to the President and two Dáil speeches, there were individual meetings with 17 ministers.

“I’m only here because I stood on your shoulders,” Leo Varadkar told them. “We’d a fabulous campaign, a mediocre candidate but a fabulous campaign.”
“I’m only here because I stood on your shoulders,” Leo Varadkar told them. “We’d a fabulous campaign, a mediocre candidate but a fabulous campaign.”

Read More: Varadkar's 'Dublin government' risks him building up some political divides

Sources say he gave each of them a personal "pep talk".

"He told me that it was up to me as a minister to make things happen in my department but that his office would always be open to help. It was empowering. I left the room feeling energised," said one reappointed minister.

Inevitably the Coppers soiree will raise eyebrows among the people who moan about everything, but after a hard-fought campaign and two days of pomp and ceremony, the gathering was innocent enough.

In fact Mr Varadkar was so determined to stay on message he managed to address the crowd on his plans for Brexit and health. That must be a first for Coppers.

It was after midnight by the time the Taoiseach walked into a wall of selfie-seeking young Fine Gaelers. He had no need to borrow Noel Rock's gold card.

"I'm only here because I stood on your shoulders," he told them. "We'd a fabulous campaign, a mediocre candidate but a fabulous campaign."

Mr Varadkar mused that if Ireland was able to resolve a 800-year conflict, weather the recession and fix the banking system, then "surely problems like the housing crisis and health crisis are not beyond us as a people".

He joked he had important phone calls to make to "the three M's": Merkel, Macron and May. Trump would be "in due course", he said to a chorus of laughter before getting serious again.

"Crucially for me is tackling the profound issues that exist in our health service which evaded me in so many ways as a minister. But when you're Taoiseach you've so much more power."

Then music came back on. Standard Coppers fare like B*Witched and Oasis, mixed with Maniac 2000.

Mr Varadkar posed for a few more pictures, practised his new Taoiseach handshake and was gone into the night.

It was a business-like performance that he will have to repeat time and again over the coming years - but probably in more conventional venues.

Irish Independent

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