Saturday 20 January 2018

Eamon simmers and Enda fudges as bearded brunette spoils their love-in

It's all a bit reminiscent of the late Princess Di's famous break-up TV interview when she batted her baby-blues at the camera and confided, "There were three of us in this marriage."

For someone has arrived on the scene to disrupt the domestic harmony enjoyed for almost a year-and-a-half now by coalition couple Enda'n'Eamon. The Fine Gael-Labour leaders' love-in has soured slightly, because a third party has driven a wedge between them.

But the trouble in political paradise isn't being caused by anything as run-of-the-mill as the tabloid staple of a shapely blonde - this time it's a portly, bearded brunette who is threatening to bring about a messy end to a beautiful friendship.

James Reilly is the culprit. The Health Minister is going through something of a rough patch of late, what with that awkward business of appearing in Stubbs' Gazette, and ongoing grief over Budget overruns in the HSE.

But this week Jimmy the Jinx managed to raise the hackles of his junior ministers, Labour's Kathleen Lynch and Roisin Shortall, by omitting to inform them that the head honcho of the HSE, Cathal Magee was resigning. It came as quite a shock to Roisin in particular when she heard it on the radio.

And so as she stalked about Leinster House with her nose clearly out of joint, questions then arose about when the minister had shared this crucial piece of information with others, like say, the Taoiseach and Tanaiste.

Not so, it transpires. Having dodged a bit of a quizzing on the matter from the opposition during yesterday morning's final Leader's Questions of this Dail year, Eamon Gilmore decided to make a clean breast of things during a press conference later in the day.

"I heard about it on the RTE news," he revealed.

"I think it is regrettable that that information leaked out in that way," he added.

Uh-oh. And standing next to him was a pensive-looking Taoiseach. He well knows how small spats can grow up very fast into major bust-ups. And it got worse. Not only was Eamon displeased, but he had made his displeasure clear to Jimmy the Jinx.

"I have spoken with Minister Reilly about it, and I'm confident that it's unlikely it will arise again," he said.

This left Enda in a bit of a pickle. As Eamon simmered alongside him, Enda did his best to dismiss any notion of tension, akin to an anxious garda asking rubberneckers at a crash scene to move along, nothing to see here.

Asked for his reaction to the fact that the Tanaiste has had words with the minister, he launched into a bewildering lecture on semantics.

"Well it's a difference between having words and speaking. When you speak you have to use words, obviously," he mulled aloud.

"So the Tanaiste has spoken to the Minister for Health, and the Minister for Health has spoken back to the Tanaiste."

He then tried to persuade the press folk that there was No Story Here -- but alas for Enda, he may as well try to prevent a dog from gnawing on a big juicy bone.

"Your interpretation of that is that the words might have been louder than normal conversation might be. I don't think that's the case, there's a very strong professional relationship between both parties in government, between the Tanaiste and myself, between the Tanaiste and all the ministers, and between the Taoiseach and all the ministers.

''There's no need for over-reaction," he said sniffily.

Spats happen between even the closest of couples; however, some squabbles are a presage of more domestic disharmony to come.

And there are troublesome issues waiting in the wings -- a tough Budget, a potential showdown over abortion.

So if Enda and Eamon start having words in the autumn, all those coalition backbench children are going get very very nervous.

Irish Independent

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