Lord Mayor Royston Brady is like Daniel O'Donnell: All the women love him and he will do anything for publicity, especially now that he's running for Europe. DAMIAN CORLESS reports on the rise and rise of Royston
OVER the weekend, Royston did it again. Made an eejit of himself. Or else made an exceedingly clever move guaranteed to get him acres of free publicity. Take your pick. It all depends on how you look at it.
And certainly it looks suspicious. It's not the first time he's done something outrageous when he needs to up his profile, of course; just think back to his cheeky crossing of swords with the Minister for Justice.
This time his timing is spot on. If all goes according to plan, the end of his spell as Lord Mayor will coincide neatly with his emergence as a new Member of the European Parliament after the elections next June. So, now that he is moving on, why not tell it like it is (as he sees it) about Dublin City Council and its 'pathetic' councillors?
So we got the weekend broadside in which he, the Lord Mayor, called the City Councillors "clowns" and "a waste of space". "Dublin City Council as a whole are so pathetic. The whole thing is so silly and so screwed up that nobody gets anything done," he said. He has already described as "farcical" the lack of progress in O'Connell Street, saying that it is now seven years since the plans were first announced.
All of which will fit in with the frustrations of ordinary Dubliners who think that all councillors are on the make and that the Luas and Tunnel works have turned the city into a gigantic building site.
So there should be a good few votes in that. And apologies to the councillors or clarifications are unlikely to make any difference. Royston will benefit and the other Euro candidates can only dream of such publicity.
It's classic Royston. The pre-fabricated Country & Irish crooner TR Dallas once said of his Fianna Fail creator and mentor: "Donie Cassidy is the brainchild of my success." The same rich tribute could be paid by Royston to his mentor Bertie Ahern, although he might choose a different formula of words.
The Taoiseach's 31-year-old protegé is only halfway through his year as Dublin's first citizen, but already he's succeeded in raising his public profile and party standing to the point where even sceptics in the FF rank-and-file talk about him as a prospective party leader.
One convert even ventures: "There's a hint of the JFK or the Clinton about him. He's a natural crowd pleaser with energy, charm and charisma to burn."
Brady's credentials as a future leader run deeper than that. He combines so many of Fianna Fail's native traits that he could almost have been assembled by a focus group. His many facets speak out to the party's Publican wing, to its Country & Western wing, to its GAA wing and even to its old-school Catholic wing (he flirted with thoughts of the priesthood), and all this from a power base in the vital heart of Dublin.
As a former barman and hotel manager, Brady has stood fast in backing the powerful publican rump against Michael Martin's bid to fast-track a smoking ban. Like his late father, Ray, he's got greasepaint in his blood, prompting pop svengali Louis Walsh to suggest a career in Country & Western music.
He's a regular at Croke Park where he roars on the Dubs. In his role as apprentice to Bertie the Sorcerer, he has picked up some neat tricks, including the capacity to have things both ways in an argument. In one interview, Brady came out both for and against quick-fix solutions to Dublin problems ( for in the case of crime, against in the case of traffic). He has also been vocal in his defence of lap-dancing clubs and, more recently, against them.
'Royston became part of the furniture at St Luke's: aged eleven he was dropping leaflets for Bertie through letterboxes. The cute kid became the apple of Celia Larkin's eye'
Brady also appears to share Bertie's instinctive understanding of the rules of disassociation. Speaking recently, the Mayor lamented the propensity of Irish politicians for acts of treachery, tut-tutting about "just how easily they hang each other out to dry". It was a piece of distancing worthy of the master.
Royston Brady became a full-time politician in May 1999, having quit his managerial post in Bray's Royal Marine Hotel. Weeks later, at his first try, he was elected a councillor for the North Inner City Ward. A rival recalls: "There was no expense spared to get him elected. His posters and flyers were the best you could get. The FF doorstep machine went into top gear behind him."
One year later, Brady was Dublin's Deputy Lord Mayor, installed by Fianna Fáil as part of its pact with Labour to time-share the Mansion House. Since 1999 Brady has become a serial appointee to numerous bodies, including the boards of Dublin Port, Dublin Tourism and Dublin Enterprise.
Last week, after much speculation, he announced that he wants to run for Europe in the Euro elections in June. His name will go forward to Fianna Fail's Dublin constituency selection convention on February 1. Well, surprise, surprise.
His rise appears meteoric, but Brady began laying the foundations of his overnight success in childhood. He was one of nine children from the North Strand given exotic names (there's a Perpetua and a Fulton) and raised staunchly Fianna Fail.
As a boy, he hung out with the Drumcondra Mafia, of whom elder brother Cyprian was a key figure, at Bertie's Camelot, St Luke's in Drumcondra. Cyprian, made a Senator in 2002, now runs St Luke's. Royston became part of the furniture at St Luke's: aged eleven he was dropping leaflets for Bertie through letterboxes. The cute kid became the apple of Celia Larkin's eye.
One source says: "It's probably excessive to say Royston was Bertie and Celia's surrogate son, but the couple definitely adopted him in a way."