Saturday 29 November 2014

Lise Hand's diary: Merkel's magic charm in political PR

Published 19/07/2014 | 02:30

Angela Merkel with the German team

IF any politicians want a master-class in how to survive a tricky photo-opp, they need look no further than Angela Merkel.

The German Chancellor managed the not-inconsiderable feat of being snapped celebrating post-World Cup final in a dressing-room full of semi-clad young chaps and one gold statuette, without looking like a total pillock. Moreover, it turned out that unlike some politicians who horn in on sporting victories (Charlie Haughey and the Tour de France, anyone?) with cringe-making results, Angela's party's ratings actually rose by 2pc when she flew to Brazil to watch Germany hammer Portugal 4-0.

It probably helped that Angela is a genuine football fan, and is an honorary member of the club she has supported for donkey's years, Energie Cottbus. And this fact was used to cunning effect when she visited Dublin for a meeting of the EPP party (of which Fine Gael is a member) last March.

After the meeting, she and Enda travelled to Government Buildings for a press conference, and in a smart move to create a welcoming vibe in the green room, government press officer and keen sports fan Tom McLoughlin pinned a photo of her team to the door.

And apparently she clocked it before going into the press conference. "It would be like the Taoiseach going into a room in Berlin or Brussels, and finding a picture of the Mayo senior team on the wall," said one observer. "We think she appreciated the gesture". She still didn't give her blessing to retrospective bank recapitalisation, dammit . . .

Labour leaving do gate-crashed

The Labour Party hosted what was supposed to be a small farewell soiree in Doheny & Nesbitt's hostelry for some backroom staff who found themselves out of a job as a result of recent manoeuvres on the reshuffle front.

Minister Brendan Howlin, new junior Minister Aodhan O'Riordain and various backbenchers, such as Arthur Spring, Ciara Conway and Michael McCarthy, were in situ when there was a blueshirt invasion. Suddenly the place was hopping with Fine Gael top brass, including the Taoiseach, Richard Bruton, Leo, Alex White (who drank water – ice-cold, presumably), Paul Kehoe and Frances Fitzgerald.

It was reportedly a jolly affair, with Enda hanging out at the bar chatting to all and sundry, including – inevitably – a bunch of lads from Mayo.

One lone politician, strolling along the empty ministerial corridor that evening, said afterwards: "It was like 'The Shining' – there wasn't a soul in the place". However, one early bird had already caught the worm; immediately after being moved from the front bench and bestowed with a new junior ministry in the Taoiseach's Department, Jimmy Deenihan promptly laid claim to one of the more well-appointed offices along the corridor and moved in, although it had been earmarked for another new appointee.

Nobody had the nerve to tell the Kerry hardman ...

Buttimer's celeb pal makes impression

Quite a few ministers found a reason to nonchalantly stroll past the table of Fine Gael's Jerry Buttimer in the Members Restaurant on Wednesday evening where he was entertaining a dinner guest.

For his companion was none other than impressionist Oliver Callan (right) who routinely and rather brilliantly skewers many of the denizens of Leinster House on the telly and radio. Nonetheless, several of his various victims came to say hello in person, including Leo Varadkar, Frances Fitzgerald, James Reilly, Joan Burton and Michael Ring.

Afterwards, the Cork South-Central TD brought his pal into the Dail bar for a post-feed libation, and more than one person partaking of a pint ended up checking its contents for a hallucinogenic substance after hearing the distinctive voice of the new Health Minister, only to turn around and see no one but a baby-faced chap looking innocent at the bar . . .

New baby in the house

There was at least one TD who was paying little heed to the reshuffle, and that was Fianna Fail's Michael McGrath. The Cork South-Central deputy and his wife Sarah have just welcomed their sixth child, a son. Baby Luke, born on July 2, is the fifth boy, joining Jack (12), David (7), Ronan (6), and Tom (5) and their sister, three-year old Ruth.

No grand quiet August for Deputy McGrath, one suspects . . .

Irish Independent

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