independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Fine Gael candidates send mixed messages on alcohol use

FG MEPs Jim Higgins and Mairead McGuinness congratulate each other after their official nomination for the upcoming EU elections

FINE Gael MEP Jim Higgins rounded off his speech to a party convention yesterday with an anecdote about a late-night drinking session on a foreign trip with fellow TDs.

By contrast, his running mate, Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness, spoke about how it was "time to speak out against excessive alcohol consumption".

At the party's European election selection convention for Ireland Midlands-North-West, she referred to the deaths of two young people from the 'neknomination' drinking craze.

"We also have to tackle head-on our relationship with alcohol. It's synonymous with the Irish, but much of our relationship with it can be an unhealthy one and therefore presents a problem.

"And it's not just about young people. It is a problem right across society," she said.

Ms McGuinness said it was not about being against alcohol, but the way it is treated at leisure and at work.

At the event in Athlone, Co Westmeath, Mr Higgins told a story about a visit to Cyprus on an Oireachtas trip in the 1990s.

He said the delegation took the "remains of the duty free" up to a room in the early hours of the morning. He recounted a conversation between the TDs at 2.30am.

"PJ Sheahan, from Goleen or Schull in west Cork, turned to the late Tom Fox from Roscommon and he said: "Tom, how are we doing with the bottle of Paddy?' And Tom took up the bottle of Paddy, like this, and he looked at it. You know on the bottle of Paddy, there's a little map of Ireland with the four provinces. And he said: 'Be Jaysus, not great, we're well south of Athlone'," he said to laughter and applause from delegates.

"The following day, you can imagine the form and it was the final get-together."

In his speech, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he knew Mr Higgins for 35 years.

"And I tell you this much, you never saw someone who would hold on to a bone tighter than Jim Higgins," he said.

In closing remarks to the convention, local Fine Gael TD James Bannon claimed the Taoiseach had taken "the heads" from the French President.

Following a large amount of laughter, Mr Bannon clarified his view that Mr Kenny "took the headquarters of Yahoo from the French President".

He was referring to French President Francois Hollande's anger at internet giant Yahoo's decision to locate in Ireland.

"We have also the headquarters of other companies like Paypal and indeed, Google.

"All of those companies have located here because of Fine Gael and the efforts made by this Government since taking office.

"So ladies and gentlemen, I don't want to go on," he said to cheers.

"I hope yiz all, I hope yiz all enjoy yer stay here in the midlands, in the constituency of Longford-Westmeath. We are a proud people and I have no doubt that that will spill out on each and every one of you here this evening. So God bless and safe home," he said to rapturous applause from the 300 party members.

Later, a party wag suggested there was a yahoo left in the party.

Irish Independent

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