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Monday 1 September 2014

Cowboy-shaped bombshell has Dail singing the reshuffle blues

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Lise Hand

Published 09/07/2014 | 02:30

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Tanaiste Joan Burton
Tanaiste Joan Burton
Simon Harris, Fine Gael TD

Throughout her long slog upwards through the ranks of the Labour Party, it's safe to surmise that never in her most fevered reveries did Joan Burton imagine that her first crisis as deputy head of Government would involve a somewhat podgy American in a tall hat.

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A smiling brand-new Tanaiste had slipped into her seat next to the Taoiseach for the afternoon's Order of Business – the new companeros were taking a mini-break from their prolonged haggling over the divvy-up of jobs for the coalition boys and girls.

Earlier, Leaders' Questions had plodded along like a weary dray-horse heading for home, followed by an equally soporific session of questions to the Taoiseach. Everyone on the government side seemed a bit distracted, especially the line of ministers arrayed along the front bench: Leo (cheerful), Simon (thoughtful), Pat (doleful), Richard (soulful) and Jimmy Deenihan (fretful).

But outside in the real world, a cowboy-shaped bombshell had just detonated. Garth Brooks, in the face of the increasingly farcical imbroglio over his five Croker dates, announced via Aiken Promotions that he was cancelling the whole shebang. All of the shows were officially gone for a Joan (Burton).

As the Dail chuntered on, gobs were being smacked all over the country. Fingers of blame were pointed in all sorts of directions.

This wasn't merely a dog's dinner – it was a 10-course canine banquet.

Inevitably by the time the Order of Business took centre-stage, the fiasco had even managed to permeate the reshuffle obsession, which had an iron grip on the denizens of the House.

Fianna Fail's Micheal Martin and Timmy Dooley had practically line-danced into the chamber and all but sported sparkly cowboy hats.

Micheal was in a sportive mood, and first congratulated Joan on her elevation, while also asking Enda when he was going to announce his new Cabinet.

"Will you ever take other ministers out of their prolonged misery?" he asked. "It's very disconcerting and discomforting for members of the Opposition to have to watch on a daily basis the very pained look on certain individuals coming into the House who are living in a kind of limbo-land in terms of whether they will survive," he added, tongue wedged firmly in cheek.

Micheal was on a roll, and picked on a few sitting ducks across the chamber, including junior minister Alan Kelly, a chap not lacking in ambition.

"We have some idea who will be coming in. Minister Kelly has already announced that he is going into Cabinet unilaterally," he sniped slyly to appreciative cheers from all sides.

Across from Micheal, the cabinet wannabe went brick red – more scarlet than a Labour rose.

But then he got down to the serious business of Garth Brooks. This cancellation was a disaster, Micheal reckoned, "which represents approx-imately a €50m loss to the Dublin economy – and very significant reputational damage to the country in terms of the importance of Ireland and Dublin as its capital city".

Enda was graver than Glasnevin cemetery. He sounded like a chap whose dog had died and the pick-up truck had broken down.

The whole farrago "appears to have been very badly handled all around," he replied dismally.

It was, he continued, "a great disappointment" to the fans and "a shock to the system of the city", which had been anticipating a gold-rush over the five days.

"There are to be no concerts at all, none," the Taoiseach intoned, as he defended the singer's "integrity and credibility as a performer, as an artist and his view was five or nothing".

Perhaps it was simply that Enda's been up to his eyes singing the Reshuffle Blues that he hadn't been tempted to pick up the phone himself and call Nashville offering to mediate, a la Bertie and the Saipan Civil War of 1994.

But perhaps spending so much time behind closed doors this week was getting to the Taoiseach just a little, and giddiness was breaking out.

As Enda exited the Dail chamber, he spotted Fine Gael young gun Simon Harris (right) on the corridor chatting to a couple of journalists.

"That's a spiffing colour suit on you, Simon," remarked Enda as he passed by.

"Do you think that's a new suit, Taoiseach?" asked Newstalk's Paraic Gallagher, hopping the reshuffle ball.

A flustered Simon said his charcoal suit was no such thing. "No, it's well worn," he insisted.

But Enda hadn't finished having sport with Simon.

"It looks good on you. Is it a new one? It should be," he teased, and as he walked away he shouted back over his shoulder to the nervous Wicklow deputy – "You might need it ... "

Badum-tish. Enda the entertainer. He's here all week.

Unlike Garth Brooks.

Irish Independent

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