Friday 28 April 2017

Retiring Dail barman lifts lid on 30-hour drinking session

Lise Hand

Lise Hand

There was a rare moment of cross-party cheer in the Dail yesterday morning when the deputies toasted a distinguished denizen of Leinster House who is departing after 41 years right at the heart of Irish politics.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin hailed Denis Reid as a "great wit, a raconteur, a living historian and keeper of customs", while Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore described a man who knew "more about politics and what goes on in here than anybody else".

And yet who knows the name Denis Reid? He isn't a retiring Taoiseach or deputy. Instead he has held a far more elevated position, as long-serving manager of the Dail bar.

With perfect timing, Denis began his job in March 1970, a few months before what was possibly the single most turbulent upheaval in modern Irish politics -- the Arms Crisis.

"The whole place was packed. There really was an atmosphere of almost civil war politics," he recalled.

After the sackings of ministers Charles Haughey and Neil Blaney and the resignation of Kevin Boland all-night debates raged in the House. "The bars were open for 30 hours -- from 10.30am on the Friday morning to 11.30pm on Saturday night -- and most of the deputies were continually in the bar," said Denis.

"It may not have been the greatest debate of all time, but it was the greatest drinking session."

How things have changed since then.

"On the night this Government was elected, at 10.15pm there was nobody in the Members Bar.

"Unbelievable," he remarked, shaking his head.

Irish Independent

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