Doctor Disaster gives Soldiers of Destiny a shot in the arm
MORE than a thousand party faithful were packed into the huge ballroom of the Burlington Hotel, rising to their feet to applaud loudly as their leader finished his speech, before tucking into a feed of beef or salmon.
But it wasn't Fine Gael -- their bun fight was last weekend. Seven days later, it was the turn of Fianna Fail to throw their annual bash in the Burlo on Saturday night. Different political party, but same venue, same menu -- and the same number of guests.
A little more than 18 months since they were massacred at the polls, it seems that the Soldiers of Destiny are eager to regroup.
There was a buzz in the room -- it wasn't the cocky roaring and back-slapping of the glory days, but neither was it the subdued mutter of a shell-shocked army. And yet, despite the sizeable crowd, there were few familiar faces from the past.
There was no Bertie, no Brian Cowen, and only a handful of former ministers and TDs, such as Mary Hanafin, Barry Andrews, John Moloney, Frank Fahey, Ned O'Keeffe and Charlie O'Connor.
The past, as far as Micheal Martin is concerned, is dead and buried. It's deader than Bertie's chances of moving into the Aras, and they're deader than a flock of dodos.
Fianna Fail is looking forward, peering into a horizon where glimmers the faintest rosy glow of hope.
If every cloud has a silver lining, FF's particular lining is named James Reilly whose bungling of the primary care centre list has allowed it to come off the canvass properly for the first time since March 2011 and land a few upper-cuts on the Government's chin.
Inevitably, the Health Minister got star billing in Micheal's speech to the foot soldiers on Saturday night.
"He has proven to be incapable of working with colleagues.
"Every day he stays as Minister for Health is a day that will not be forgotten by voters when they deliver their judgment on Fine Gael and Labour," he added.
The room broke into thankful applause. God bless Doctor Disaster.
But it'll take more than the woes of one government minister to spark a revival. Micheal has been busy with a ground campaign.
He explained that since last May he has been "on the doorsteps, meeting people on the ground, listening to people's concerns and needs.
"The hard road back demands that type of commitment and work," he said.
What's more, Micheal revealed how the party has been busy signing up new soldiers, fresh-faced inductees with short memories.
Indeed, there were more than a few tables filled with young lads and lassies. It's now the mini-skirt versus the mohair suit.
In the past month, he announced, Fianna Fail recruited 1,500 Ogra members.
"We've extended Ogra into new colleges and today we are once again the largest political party across the country," declared Micheal.
The room erupted with cheers and delighted clapping.
They really, really haven't gone away, you know.
After dinner, Micheal worked the room, hopping from table to table. In one corner of the cavernous ballroom, a peculiar set-up was in place.
Lighted studio cameras were trained on a canvas backdrop upon which was painted what vaguely looked like ancient Rome.
It was pointed out to Micheal, who looked at it with bemusement. Was he intending to slip into a toga and pose with the plebs?
He looked aghast.
"No, no, that's nothing to do with us," he protested.
"I'm not posing on that," he insisted. Then he took another look. "Well, not yet," he laughed.
Carpe diem, and all that.