Friday 28 October 2016

My week: Regina Doherty

Eilis O'Hanlon

Published 22/05/2016 | 02:30

Regina Doherty
Regina Doherty

Monday: Up bright and early for the long drive into Dublin. I don't want to miss another deadline, like the one last Friday when Fine Gael forgot to submit a nomination for the vacant post of Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

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How was I meant to know that doing it was part of my new job as Chief Whip?

I still don't see why the usual suspects had to be so nasty about it. Don't they realise that Fine Gael is the Nice Party? We're all lovely in the Blueshirts. Leo is lovely. Frances Fitzgerald is lovely. That Simon Harris boy has lovely manners, always holds the door open for you. Everyone has lovely dinner parties, with lovely food and lovely wine and lovely conversation. You'd never guess I grew up in Ballymun, but that's the beauty of FG. It's like instant upward mobility.

What I really need is a trusty sidekick to put my version of events to the media. Mary Mitchell O'Connor appointed that newsreader when she became Jobs minister. I wonder if I could get the funny weatherman from TV3 to do the same for me?

Then I remember he fronted that campaign last year by the Simon Community, suggesting we weren't doing enough to tackle the housing crisis. We care deeply about homelessness in FG. Some days we shake our heads sadly over it for hours, wishing there was something we could do. But there isn't. Because of the financial crash. Or something.

I didn't realise being in Cabinet would be so hard. Only a few weeks in and it already feels like we're holed up in a bunker, waiting for the end. It could be worse. At least I'm not Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan.

That's the one good thing about putting your foot in it right now. Someone else is always in a bigger mess.

Take Finian McGrath, who is in the bad books for questioning the smoking ban. Criticising Micheal Martin's most famous piece of legislation is hardly the best way to keep the Fianna Fail leader onside. The last thing we need is for him to pull the plug on what he keeps calling our "temporary little arrangement" when we're only just settling in.

TUESDAY: Time for the weekly Cabinet meeting. We discuss the green bin charges. We're going to have to back down on that one. We talk about FF's Mortgages Bill. We're probably going to have to back down on that too, as Sinn Fein are threatening to help FF get it passed against our wishes.

I said when I got this job that I wanted more cross-party agreement, but this isn't exactly what I had in mind. It seems the lady is for turning.

We tried telling the Opposition that Michael Noonan believed the bill was unconstitutional, but they just wouldn't listen. Frankly, we were shocked. When the Finance Minister speaks ex cathedra, that's generally good enough for us.

Enda tries to interject, but no one understands what he's saying as his voice is so high.

"What's wrong, Taoiseach?" we ask worriedly, because we all venerate him deeply for saving the land from ruin. (Or that's what I tell TDs to keep repeating if asked).

He says he's sorry, but since agreeing the deal with FF he's had the disagreeable feeling that a man from Cork has him tightly by the…

Calls come in all day asking what we're going to do about the O'Higgins Report. Make the right noises, then hope everyone forgets it, I presume. It's the Irish way.

WEDNESDAY: There are angry exchanges in the Dail as we announce we're extending the deadline for nominations to become Leas-Cheann Comhairle so that One Of Us can stand, thus saving the neighbourhood from going even more downhill than it has already.

Danny Healy-Rae says the Irish people will never forgive us for this stroke. As if they haven't forgiven worse!

There are more ructions at the FG parliamentary party meeting this evening, as I'm forced to defend the Government against accusations that we're being made to look like chumps by the Opposition. This isn't what being Chief Whip was meant to be like. I should be the one keeping them in line.

I take comfort from the fact that Tory whips in England are having the same problem keeping malcontents in check over Europe. Not that I'm comparing FG with the Tories. We're very different. They, for example, are very good at winning elections.

THURSDAY: I meet with rival party whips to reassure them that I'm seeking "enhanced solutions" to all these nagging difficulties.

"Wasn't that the name of your company that went belly up with debts of €280,000?" comes a dig.

The tone of Irish politics is so disappointingly negative at times. If only we'd been in a position over the last five years to finally change the way things are done. You know, if we'd had a massive majority in Dail Eireann or something like that.

FRIDAY: What a week. I might've told the whingers that water charges won't "magically disappear", but I wish I could for a while. I slip into a side room to get some peace. Inside, I find Alan Kelly hiding so that he doesn't have to congratulate Brendan Howlin. I hope he's not going to ask if he can join FG. We've got enough problems.

*As imagined by Eilis O'Hanlon

Sunday Independent

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