News Lise Hand

Wednesday 24 September 2014

We'll see Shatter on a platter if opposition gets its way

Published 03/03/2014 | 02:30

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Enda Kenny checks out the produce as Justine Vasil looks on at a Good Food stand at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis at the weekend.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD giving the closing address at the Ard Fheis in Dublin. Photo:Barry Cronin
Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD giving the closing address at the Ard Fheis in Dublin. Photo:Barry Cronin

THE woman didn't care to share her name. She had just bought a plate with Enda Kenny's head on it. Now, while his political detractors and opponents would probably wish that this lady was some sort of latter-day Salome and that the Taoiseach's bonce was indeed resting on her newly purchased platter, it was merely a piece of painted crockery.

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It was decorated with both an image of Enda looking extremely official and a chart (in blue ink, natch) depicting the number of seats won by each party in the last general election, with Fine Gael's 76 seats right at the top.

It was the work of Castlebar ceramicist Micheal Neary, and was on sale at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in the RDS for a modest 10 scoots.

Also there were mugs featuring Enda's mug for a mere fiver, which were only flying off the stall.

The woman surveyed her buy, which was the sort of large, white souvenir plate that one sometimes sees hanging on the walls of homes, alongside a Sacred Heart wall light or a framed photo of JFK.

"The west is very proud of Enda," she declared. "He's got the country out of a terrible mess, and it's about time people stopped having a go at him and started thanking him. And Michael Noonan too," she added.

Sadly, there was no Baldyware to be had. Which would've been handy, given all the tidbits of delicious free food on offer in the hall.

Twenty purveyors of one sort of fine fare or the other had paid €250 for stands just inside the entrance to the Ard Fheis, and on Saturday it became the unofficial hang-out for politicians and many of the 3,000 registered delegates.

During the afternoon, Alan Shatter toured some of the stands, and was invited to sample some smoked salmon by Cork fishmonger Pat O'Connell who made the headlines codding around with Queen Elizabeth in the English Market.

But the Justice Minister declined politely.

The mood was upbeat at the conference. These days, Ard Fheiseanna are often moribund, over-stage-managed affairs, devoid of real news, innovative policies or ding-dong battles over controversial motions.

But despite the best efforts of party handlers, a few of the debates generated interest. During a panel discussion on jobs and the economy, Michael Noonan made one of his regular forays off-script, floating a plan to bring a third pillar bank into the Irish economy.

Likewise, Mr Shatter put on a pugnacious performance during a debate on justice-related topics, getting stuck into his political opponents who questioned his integrity during recent rumbles relating to the Garda Ombudsman and whistleblowers.

He was rewarded with a standing ovation from the loyal troops who may not approve entirely of his handling of these controversies, but they definitely disapprove of the opposition's strenuous efforts to take a ministerial scalp.

One of the most closely watched motions was one calling on members to support the passing of the referendum on same-sex marriage, but it was carried almost unanimously.

Cork South-Central TD Jerry Buttimer, the party's only openly gay parliamentarian, said the motion was about equality.

"The only place where I am unequal is in my Constitution," he told the crowded hall. Afterwards, Mr Shatter praised Mr Buttimer for his "eloquence", "courage" and "leadership" to applause from delegates.

But it didn't all go his way. After a motion to replace the system of garda vetting was passed, the Justice Minister could be clearly heard groaning "for God's sake" into a treacherous microphone.

The Leader's Address was predictable fare.

But at the end he got the obligatory cheer. And Enda pointedly sought out the hand of his Justice Minister to hoist in solidarity. Earlier, in a lull as the countdown to the live coverage took place, the audience launched into an impromptu three cheers for Mr Shatter.

Just wait till next year's Fine Gael Ard Fheis. There'll be sets of Shatter sherry-glasses alongside Enda's mugs. Unless the opposition do manage to get Alan's head on a plate, that is.

Irish Independent

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