Sunday 25 February 2018

Curtain of silence falls on Enda and Joan's last cosy tea party

Taoiseach Enda Kenny pours a cup of tea for Tánaiste Joan Burton Photo: Tom Burke
Taoiseach Enda Kenny pours a cup of tea for Tánaiste Joan Burton Photo: Tom Burke
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Maybe there was more to it than met the eye - like one of those excruciating reunions at the airport where, after years apart, people pat each other clumsily on the shoulder and say "Ah, there you are now".

So much to say that there was hardly anything to say at all. Or maybe they really did have nothing left to say to one another.

Which is all quite sad.

For two people who've spent the last five years together, there was an agonising scarcity of small talk over the tea and scones when Enda and Joan got back together again - and maybe even for the final time ever.

Just like the meeting at the very start of the campaign, when he shot off to the Park, Enda left Joan hanging awkwardly in front of the cameras, all bashful smiles on the outside -- and no doubt cursing him wildly for his lack of consideration on the inside.

Clock-shy Enda is a bad date. "Will I take your gloves?" offered a guru.

"No," hissed Joan. "I might need them." Finally there he was outside the Herb Street restaurant - a very hip brunch establishment at Grand Canal Dock in Dublin that chimed perfectly with Fine Gael's achingly hip Docklands campaign headquarters.

"You're looking well," Enda told Joan, with a little joke about "buns and roses," as he spied the table prettily laid with tea, scones and jam - like the photoshoot that it was. "I'd say it's gone cold," muttered Joan as Enda offered to pour. But miraculously, clouds of steam puffed up.

Black, no sugar for both and they sipped away in silence for a moment like a married couple.

But the fixed smile on Joan's face and Enda's little pleasantries were a desperate signal to the nation that they're determined to make this partnership work.

The scones went to waste.

Neither of them could risk chewing, which might make a bad photo at the 11th hour.

And then with some relief, the little tableau was over and Enda and Joan got down to persuading us why we should vote them back in.

They pleaded for stability and a "clear signal" to be allowed to continue.

"Was this "tea and sympathy" before going off to do a deal with Fianna Fáil, a reporter suggested to the Taoiseach Enda.

"Fianna Fáil destroyed this country," snorted Enda.

In the middle of it all, a heckler startled everyone by roaring: "Enda, you rat."

The Taoiseach took it on the chin.

That man was entitled to his opinion like everybody else, he said.

They were asked what was their standout moment of the election was.

For Enda, it was Gerry Adams asking who "Senator Cahill" was. For Joan, it was bumping into a young man on a "starry night" when he had told her how he had managed to get a job and turn his life around.

Then they were asked what they plan to do in their first free moment to themselves after this is all over.

The pair looked taken aback at the very idea.

Enda wants to go "far away from the madding crowd".

Joan wants to go for a walk - which is pretty much the same thing. And then the curtain came down, and they left the stage.

Following Gerry Adams around on his final jet around the city was an entirely different affair, a few hours later.

Outside the GPO a group of fifth class pupils from Bishop Galvin National school, in Dublin's Templeogue put up a stirring Gerry Springer chant of "Gerrr-y, Gerrr-y," before he made a beeline for them to have a little chat.

All the way down Henry Street and Moore Street, it was a string of selfies, autographs and squeals.

Gerry stopped to buy flowers from Mary Leech on Moore Street. And then decided on three bunches.

"You must have a lot of mistresses," quipped Mary.

Only, a bit like the British queen, Gerry doesn't carry any cash on him. And so there was a momentary flurry - until a friend gave him €20.

It must be handy to have friends like that.

Irish Independent

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