Saturday 18 November 2017

Fighting talk as round four of FG scrap proves a big box-office draw

At the Fine Gael hustings at the Clayton Silver Springs Hotel in Cork last night were, far left: Senator Maria Byrne, Una Gillespie, Ann Strain, Cllr Eithne Loftus and Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor Photo: Colin O’Riordan
At the Fine Gael hustings at the Clayton Silver Springs Hotel in Cork last night were, far left: Senator Maria Byrne, Una Gillespie, Ann Strain, Cllr Eithne Loftus and Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

'This kid has me training a little bit. He said I looked sharp. When it's time to do what I have to do, it will be tremendous," said the hot favourite. "If the fans around the world want to see it, then we have to give those fans what they want to see. What we do know is that I will be the A-side."

Oops sorry, completely different fight - that was Mayweather, not Leo.

All this Champ v Underdog, 'will they, won't they' talk is becoming very confusing for the casual observer trying to keep across all that matters.

Anyway, McGregor v Mayweather, Simon v Leo - is there really any difference bar a couple of hundred million dollars and marginally less Champagne?

Fighting talk, pantomime and bloodshed - but nobody really gets hurt and everybody walks away with a comfortable pay cheque they can live on until the end of their days. How bad, as they say here in Cork.

Colourful crowd too, at the last of the four showdowns between the two potential leaders, at the Silver Springs Hotel. One woman nearly threw a few slaps herself when she was stopped coming in the door because she didn't have one of the red wristbands required for admission.

"I'm here for Coveney. Don't touch me," she admonished the security guard who backed away, alarm in his eyes.

By this, the fourth round, it was becoming hard to imagine what new shapes might be thrown.

At the Fine Gael hustings at the Clayton Silver Springs Hotel in Cork last night were Simon
Coveney’s mother Pauleen and brother Patrick. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
At the Fine Gael hustings at the Clayton Silver Springs Hotel in Cork last night were Simon Coveney’s mother Pauleen and brother Patrick. Photo: Colin O’Riordan

But it was amazing how fresh they still looked at this stage of the fight.

"If your passion is such that you can't control it, I won't be stopping you," said moderator Gavin Duffy, almost smacking his lips.

Good questions from the floor helped too.

"If you had to appoint a member of the Opposition to the cabinet, who would you choose?" asked one woman in the first query of the night. There were appreciative coos from the crowd.

"Probably Eamon Ryan for climate change," said Simon.

Leo pointed out that this wasn't the very first time Simon had talked about going into government with the Greens - he had mentioned it on "three out of four hustings", he claimed, describing this as worrying.

There were boos and hisses.

"Answer the question," yelled the crowd. Leo laughed. "I'm struggling to answer it to tell you the truth," he said.

More boos as he outright declined to answer it.

There were really good people in other parties and he would "probably destroy their careers" if he said their names, he said.

Ah Leo, why so lily-livered?

But there's nothing like the glamour of being the underdog.

Even Leo tried to get in on the action. "Fine Gael has enough enemies - from Vincent Browne to everybody on Twitter," said Leo.

"We've enough of that without us saying those things about each other."

Yahoo! They nearly lifted the rafters.

The bloodthirsty crowd had arrived early in enjoyable anticipation.

Many box office names were there - Paschal Donohoe and Simon Harris, James Reilly and Maria Bailey.

There was a spot of Michael Collins from national chairman Gerry O'Connell as he warmed up the troops.

"Tear up your mourning and hang up your brightest colours now," he said.

They roared and obliged, holding up their bright boards supporting Simon or Leo. It was hard to tell who had the most numbers. We could only assume Simon, given the geography.

"The jizz is back in Fine Gael," Gerry claimed.

Hardly anybody grimaced at this. He quoted JFK, saying the torch was passing to a new generation.

"This is like a Munster final," marvelled Gavin Duffy. The crowd roared again. Damn right it was.

Simon started out strong with an Enda-style folksy tale about how he had gone for a walk and looked west and then looked east and saw Ballycotton and the lighthouse at Roche's Point.

In fact, it reminded him of the best speech Enda had made - about his grandfather being a lighthouse keeper and how he wasn't rich or famous but that people had depended on him for their lives.

This fight wasn't about who could offer the most goodies, he admonished, saying society is confused and politics is very cynical.

Leo started out strong too. There were questions about Northern Ireland, and a nice cushy one about The Gathering. One of the best questions posed was how the party could counter the perception that it is elitist.

No, it's not elitist, said Simon, after all, it's the biggest party in the country.

Nope, definitely not elitist, agreed Leo. If two privately educated, well-heeled politicians can agree that their party is not elitist then it can't be, can it?

But what the crowd really wanted was a proper scrap.

And they got it, round about the time it came to who had the best grand vision for Ireland - and whether or not there was money to pay for it.

"What Leo is doing is committing to spending money we don't have yet. Not difficult to win votes on the back of that," said Simon.

He claimed he had wanted to plan first and then fund it afterwards - but Leo couldn't wait because "there was an election to fight".

"Oh the grand Ireland 2040 plan isn't going to cost any money?" retorted Leo.

They wrapped it up with inspirational speeches, with Simon saying it had opened up the debate and sparked a conversation Fine Gael hasn't seen for a long time.

"Who needs Guns N' Roses?" asked a beaming Paschal Donohoe afterwards. Er, who indeed?

In quotes -  FG hustings

"Who needs Guns N' Roses in Slane when you can have Leo and Simon in the Silver Springs." - Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe

"I thought I was coming down for a debate. This is like a Munster final." - Moderator Gavin Duffy

"Leo hurling well away from home." - TD Pat Deering

"Cork were the underdog and they won last Sunday. Elections are won in the centre." - TD Kate O'Connell

"Very proud of Simon Coveney. He's just finished his opening address - extraordinary vision, clarity, values." - Patrick Coveney

"Of course I think the race is wide open. There hasn't been a single vote cast yet and people seem to forget that. I think Simon can win."  - Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune

"I believe it is all there to play for - the past week has been a very good week for Simon given the reaction to his performances at the hustings." - Senator Jerry Buttimer

Fine Gael parliamentary party endorsements for leader

The Fine Gael parliamentary party makes up 65pc of the total electorate.

That makes each of the 73 members' votes worth 0.9pc of the total ballot.

Of the remaining electorate, 230 party councillors account for 10pc, while the remaining 25pc is rank and file members.

Leo Varadkar
Simon Coveney

Total: 45

Total: 19

Ministers: 17

Ministers: 5

TDs: 16

TDs: 5

Senators: 11

Senators: 8

MEPs: 1

MEPs: 1

Richard Bruton -MinisterSimon Harris - Minister
Frances Fitzgerald - MinisterDamien English - Minister
Michael Ring - MinisterDara Murphy - Minister
Eoghan Murphy - MinisterDavid Stanton - Minister
Sean Kyne - MinisterMarcella Corcoran Kennedy - Minister
Joe McHugh - MinisterKate O'Connell - TD
Helen McEntee - MinisterMaria Bailey - TD
Charlie Flanagan - MinisterSean Barrett TD
Paul Kehoe -MinisterHildegard Naughton - TD
Patrick O'Donovan - MinisterPeter Fitzpatrick - TD
Regina Doherty - MinisterTim Lombard - Senator
Mary Mitchell O'Connor - MinisterJerry Buttimer - Senator
Paschal Donohoe - MinisterPaudie Coffey - Senator
Heather Humphreys - MinisterJames Reilly - Senator
Pat Breen - MinisterColm Burke - Senator
Catherine Byrne - MinisterJohn O'Mahony - Senator
Andrew Doyle - MinisterPaul Coghlan - Senator
John Paul Phelan - TDGabrielle McFadden - Senator
Noel Rock - TDDeirdre Clune - MEP
Tony McLoughlin - TD 
Alan Farrell - TD 
Michael D'Arcy - TD 
Tom Neville - TD 
Josepha Madigan - TD 
Pat Deering - TD 
Jim Daly - TD 
Brendan Griffin - TD 
Ciaran Cannon - TD 
Colm Brophy - TD 
Peter Burke - TD 
Fergus O'Dowd - TD 
John Deasy - TD 
Joe Carey - TD 
Neale Richmond - Senator 
Catherine Noone - Senator 
Paddy Burke - Senator 
Martin Conway - Senator 
Michelle Mulherin - Senator 
Maura Hopkins - Senator 
Ray Butler - Senator 
Frank Feighan - Senator 
Maria Byrne - Senator 
Joe O'Reilly - Senator 
Kieran O'Donnell - Senator 
Brian Hayes - MEP 
Enda Kenny - Outgoing Party Leader *Martin Heydon - Party Chairman *
Michael Noonan - MinisterMichael Creed - Minister
Bernard Durkan - TDSean Kelly - MEP
Mairead McGuinness MEP  

* Outgoing leader Enda Kenny and party chairman Martin Heydon will not make an endorsement

Irish Independent

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