Politics

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Leo's mouth wide open for Luas cake – but he's tight-lipped on Euro job

Lise Hand

Published 01/07/2014|02:30

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Minister for  Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar samples one of the edible trees from the LUAS 10th Brithday cake  as Minister for Public Transport Alan Kelly prepares to cut the cake, at the LUAS 10th brithday celebrations at the Green LUAS stop on Dublin's St Stephens Green yesterday.
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar samples one of the edible trees from the LUAS 10th Brithday cake as Minister for Public Transport Alan Kelly prepares to cut the cake, at the LUAS 10th brithday celebrations at the Green LUAS stop on Dublin's St Stephens Green yesterday.

LEO strolled up to the Luas 10th birthday party on Stephen's Green, fashionably late (by a mere 10 minutes, not Taoiseach-style 25 minutes behind schedule) and sporting dark shades.

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Perhaps he was feeling a bit rock-and-roll, having spent the previous evening hanging out at The Pixies' and Arcade Fire gig in Marlay Park. And it turns out that the Transport Minister is a fan of the support band. "Arcade Fire, meh," he tweeted from the venue.

Who knew Leo was so cool? But he's rock-and-roll only up to a point. Like Cinderella, he was home before midnight and had risen early for following morning for an Oireachtas sub-committee meeting at 8.30am. "School-night," he explained cheerfully.

And let's face it – everyone in the Cabinet is being good as gold these days. Nobody's starting fights in the yard or mitching off classes. For Headmaster Enda is watching all the senior and mini-ministers and all the lads and lassies at the back of the class, and in the next 10 days or so will be handing out gold star promotions to some, while showing others the door.

Many assume the Transport Minister will (aptly) be on the move, so too may his junior minister, Alan Kelly, when the votes for Labour's deputy leadership are counted on Friday. But the Tipp TD was enjoying mooching about in the glorious sunshine and listening to the Dublin Gospel Choir celebrate the 10th birthday of the vehicle dubbed by Dubs as the Danny Day or the Jerry Lee, depending upon one's cultural tastes.

They (the organisers, not the ministers) had even baked a cake for the occasion to mark the fact that the network had carried 300 million passengers over the past decade, and it was an impressive sight: an oblong caca milis iced to look like three Luas carriages standing at a platform with little edible trees and tag-on machines and street lights.

While posing for photos by the cake, Leo accidentally broke off a bit of street light, and did the sensible thing and promptly ate it. He then nibbled a tree.

Then the two ministers had a chat with the media. They were both in moods as sunny as the day – even when quizzed about the delicate question of which of the coalition parties will land the plum €250,000-a-year post of EU Commissioner.

For there has been some intense skirmishing from both Fine Gael and Labour on the matter, with the former touting Big Phil for Europe, while Labour are cheerleading for their outgoing Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore. Over the weekend Labour's Joe Costello fired off a shot across the Blueshirts' bow, declaring, "Of all of the people available, I think he [Gilmore] has the strongest credentials".

But neither one of the duo was going to derail anyone's chances. For both of them know – Leo in particular through previous experience – that Luas lips sink ships.

And so Leo kicked it neatly back into the boss's back garden. "The appointment of the Commissioner is a matter for the Taoiseach and the Government, and it hasn't been discussed yet," he dodged.

Nor would he volunteer just whom he was backing for the job. "I knew there are different names being mentioned – all the names I've heard being mentioned are all very well-qualified and Ireland would be very fortunate to have any of those people in as Commissioner," he added diplomatically. "It's not my call – you can ask as many times as you like," he laughed.

Alan practically echoed his answer. "It's a government decision – I presume it'll come up in discussions when the new leader of the party is chosen on Friday. I think it's important we put forward someone well-qualified, somebody who would have respect across the whole of Europe. But that's a matter for the Government," he evaded, adding: "You can ask me that a thousand times and I'm not giving you an answer."

However, the Transport Minister was far more unequivocal when it came to the notion of taking away free travel passes from the over-65s – a move which would cause uproar.

"The number of free passes has increased, it's now over one million, but the review of the scheme that's being done at the moment is with a view to modernising the scheme – it's not about taking it away," he stated firmly.

And then, before he left, he mentioned that he would be heading to another rock gig at the weekend. Perhaps he's angling to be given the Arts and Culture portfolio?

"I'm not going there," he laughed, and sped away, faster than the Danny Day.

Irish Independent

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