For better or for worse, Enda woos voters as he kisses the blushing bride
On the hustings
'Taoiseach! Taoiseach! A bride! A bride!" The scrum of press photographers was up to 90.
The Fine Gael handlers were doing cartwheels down Carlow's main street. And the gaggle of local candidates and the Euro candidate fervently thanked their particular constellations of lucky stars.
Enda was promptly dragged away from the quiet chat he was having with an elderly woman and hauled over the roadside where a beaming bride and groom were scrambling out of the wedding car, clutching glasses of bubbly.
"Oh Jesus, this is mad," laughed 26-year-old Maria Ryan who had changed her name from Brennan in the church in Castlecomer where she had just married Peter (28).
"Taoiseach! Give the bride a kiss," implored the snappers. No bother to a delighted Enda who gallantly pecked the proffered cheek, as onlookers drawn to the hullaballoo cheered. Everyone loves a bride. Especially a campaigning politician.
Beside the group, Euro candidate Simon Harris and local TD Pat Deering carefully held up Maria's long train from the wet pavement.
"The things we backbenchers do," grinned Pat. But alas for the Taoiseach and his merry men, their work was all in vain.
"We'll be on honeymoon for the election," confessed Maria, before the couple continued on their way to their wedding reception in The Lord Bagnall Hotel. Ah well. Perhaps the serendipitous encounter was a good omen for Enda, a portent that the whole "for richer and for poorer" economic lark might be shifting from the latter to the former.
It had been a largely good-humoured canvass through the town. Enda arrived a mere 45 minutes behind schedule, and immediately fell into a lengthy conversation with a local woman who works as a carer and who had various concerns regarding water charges and home adaptation grants. Enda listened and took her leaflet, borrowed a pen and wrote down her name and mobile number.
"I'll give you my mobile number," he said, and recited it twice for her, as around him the last few remaining souls in Ireland who don't have the Taoiseach's number surreptitiously scribbled it on the back of their hands.
He stopped to chat with a group of students, many of them non-Irish – the town's Institute of Technology is the largest employer in Carlow.
"What happened to Chelsea yesterday?" he asked one chap sporting a Chelsea top, and probably losing a vote into the bargain. There were a couple of locals who wanted to express their unhappiness. One woman, Rose, told the Taoiseach that she was on a long waiting-list for an MRSI scan on her knee because she had no medical card and couldn't afford €200 to have it done privately.
"I'm suffering in vain, what can you do about that?" she demanded.
In between listening to the voters, giving high-fives to kiddies and posing for selfies with students, Enda covered the area at his trademark speed with one of the party's candidates for Ireland South, Harris, doing his best to keep up.
Of course, Simon isn't the only Fine Gael politician in that constituency, and in recent days the campaign of his running mate/rival Deirdre Clune received a boost when two ex-Taoisigh, Liam Cosgrave and John Bruton announced their support for the Cork senator's candidacy. Simon bristled a little at the suggestion that this heavyweight backing gave Deirdre a considerable leg-up.
"I've a lot of respect for both men, but my campaign is about the future, not the past," he sniffed.
"I'm looking forward and I'm here campaigning with the current Taoiseach," he added pointedly.
Just as the rain began, Enda hopped into his car and headed for the Punchestown Races. But he was going armed with no tips at all.
"I'm only interested in two-legged races at this time," he joked. Earlier in the day, he had mingled with local candidates at a full bells-and-whistles launch of his party's local election manifesto in the Shelbourne Hotel.
The room was awash with so many fresh-faced and photogenic lads and lassies, that some confused folk assumed they had wandered into an audition for 'The Apprentice' by mistake. There were speeches of encouragement from various people, including Dublin Bay South TD Eoghan Murphy who channelled TV series 'The West Wing', solemnly exhorting the candidates to "go out and give it everything that you've got".
And then Michael Noonan flung a bit of political confetti into the air, reiterating that he is looking to make cuts to income tax in next October's Budget. Now that sort of sweet-talk just might lure a few voters out-of-love with the government up the electoral aisle on May 23.