Garda back-up for Alan Shatter as he finally gets to crack the jokes
THE Garda Band may have been onstage giving it some jazz welly with Glenn Miller's 'In the Mood', but the force's boss, the Justice Minister, wasn't in any mood to talk to the media who were lurking in the wings, hoping for a word in his ear.
Alan Shatter was having a grand day out at the National Convention Centre, and didn't want his buzz spoiled by questions from the pesky press concerning the startling shenanigans of the past week.
After a solid week of being on the sharp end of unending dog's abuse and relentless tricky questions, he was enjoying the luxury of spending a whole day among folk who were delighted by his presence and had no interest in (ahem) bugging him.
Between 9.30am and 5pm, he officiated at four successive ceremonies in which almost 4,000 people from 121 different countries were conferred with Irish citizenship, overseen by Judge Sarah Berkeley and the minister.
And Alan was in most jolly form, playing to four full houses in a row, acting as master of ceremonies, cracking jokes and asking the audiences for a big round of applause to the warm-up ensemble of boys and gals in blue.
And in fairness to the Justice Minister, although he's under the cosh (or truncheon, more aptly) at present, there's no denying that his overhaul of the system by which new citizens are welcomed to this country was a terrific innovation.
Instead of being individually sworn-in amid the fun-free surrounds of a local district court, these mass events have both a sense of genuine occasion mixed with a bit of craic – since its introduction, around 68,000 people have taken part in 88 ceremonies.
Shatter gave the crowd a pep talk before the taking of the oath of fidelity to the State. "Here among you, or among your children or grandchildren, there may well be a future Taoiseach, a president, a judge or perhaps even a minister for justice," he declared.
And being a set of brand-new citizens who have yet to acquire the beady-eyed cynicism of the home-grown lot, the crowd clapped enthusiastically at the prospect rather than fleeing screaming up the quays to the nearest mailboat. And after the oath of fidelity to the State had been completed and the new kinsmen and women clapped, cheered, took photos and hugged each other, a jovial Alan had a few parting words.
He advised them all to register to vote in the upcoming local elections, to consider applying to join the Defence Forces or the Garda Reserve, and not to descend upon the Passport Office en masse on the same day, looking to apply for an Irish passport.
He was on a roll, asking everyone for a round of applause for all the babies and small children who were making themselves heard in the auditorium.
"It would be very scary to be up on this platform delivering speeches in utter silence. The noise of the children in the background is the noise of future Irish citizens," he said, as approving applause erupted.
Alan even received a standing ovation at the end of his performance, which must've been balm to his wounded ego. Though one barbed quip may have been lost on his audience, when he warned them not to celebrate too heartily that evening and end up coming to the attention of less laid-back gardai than those in the band.
"I get into enough trouble on occasion for things that aren't my fault," he (sort-of) jested. Nobody left disappointed – except for the posse of press waiting patiently all day for a chat about the decommissioned commissioner.
"The minister has left the building," one of the convention centre staff announced, a la Elvis, mere minutes after the last ceremony ended. Of course Alan didn't give the media the slip on purpose. Sure, only suspicious minds would think that.