Thursday 29 September 2016

No witch's hat for Joan in Halloween hustings

Published 24/10/2015 | 02:30

Fionnuala Moran (17) and Cian Wisdom (16) show their metalwork skills to Tánaiste Joan Burton and Minister for State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin on a visit to Mount Temple Comprehensive Secondary School in Clontarf yesterday
Fionnuala Moran (17) and Cian Wisdom (16) show their metalwork skills to Tánaiste Joan Burton and Minister for State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin on a visit to Mount Temple Comprehensive Secondary School in Clontarf yesterday
The Labour leader speaks to Abbey Robinson (left) and Ciara O Sioran, dressed as two of The Beatles, on Vernon Avenue in Clontarf. Photos: Damien Eagers

The Tánaiste was about to enter Moloughney's Restaurant on Vernon Avenue in Clontarf, when she bumped into George and Ringo. Or maybe it was Paul and Ringo. Abbey Robinson and Ciara O'Sioran were decked out as a pair of Sergeant Peppers for the Halloween craic, and had nipped out of school to get some lunch.

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"I was in school when The Beatles were around," Joan Burton told them, before admitting she had been more of a Rolling Stones fan.

Joan had decided to sniff the post-budget air yesterday, now that the Dáil denizens have again farcically decided to reward their five whole weeks of hard graft since the summer break by buggering off for the entirety of next week.

A bit like a trenchful of shell-shocked soldiers, some Labour TDs have been a bit leery about popping their heads over the political parapet.

But they're wearing a slightly cheerier aspect these days; the recent Budget didn't see Leinster House encircled by pitchforks of blazing turf, the Taoiseach has backed off with his flirtation with Labour's worst nightmare of a November election, and there's a feel-good factor after the passing of the Marriage Equality Bill through the Seanad this week - which Labour firmly, and correctly, claim was only included in the Programme for Government on its insistence.

So the Tánaiste busied herself in Dublin Bay North and Dublin Mid-West, gauging the mood of the electorate. And given that Joan tends to act as a lightning rod for some protest groups, it surely wasn't coincidental that wherever the Tánaiste showed up, a garda car was also in the vicinity.

She took a leisurely tour of Mount Temple School in Clontarf alongside local TD and junior minister Aodhán Ó'Ríordáin. But as Aodhán waited for her arrival alongside school principal Liam Wegimont, he spotted a taxi doing a slow circle in the courtyard. The cab was stuffed with U2 fans wearing hats sporting the word 'Bono'.

"That happens quite a bit," remarked the principal, unfazed by one of the unexpected consequences of heading up U2's old alma mater.

Aodhán recalled the first student election held in the school where he previously worked, saying: "There were people running on election platforms of 'no homework' and 'chocolate muffins every day' - and, you know, election promises can get you in trouble."

Then Joan and Aodhán dropped into the 'To Russia with Love' charity shop, run by the indefatigable humanitarian Debbie Deegan, and which is an Aladdin's Cave of goodies - some of them seasonal. One mischief-maker handed Joan a black and silver witch's hat.

"No hat!" roared one of her staff, as he almost leapt out of his skin with a 'Halloween headline' fright. So the duo posed with a pumpkin instead.

Finally she travelled to Lucan Village, where she and local TD Joanna Tuffy met with more women constituents, including a group of childcare workers in the pretty River Café.

Afterwards, she and Joanna strolled up the street for photos. Apart from one lad shouting a burst of incoherent abuse from a passing car, the Tánaiste had a peaceful day, and the garda car's occupants were untroubled.

The Labour leader did everything in her power to prevent a November election - and won that battle. Now she's off on a new one around the country to convince the electorate to give her a second chance in government. The clock is certainly ticking to the E-A-R-L-Y spring election.

Irish Independent

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