Lucinda of Arc lays down the law on slackers
IT was surely enough to send even the most ardent Europhile, the most loyal and dedicated Blueshirt screaming into the embrace of Shane Ross.
It's a Sunday, and one could fry an egg on the street if one wasn't lazing in the back garden or on a beach. But instead of observing a sunny Sabbath, around 250 of the Fine Gael faithful were corralled into the windowless Round Room in the Mansion House.
Orders have come down from On High -- there's to be no slacking in the last few days of this endless referendum campaign.
"Complacency has no place in this campaign," scolded Lucinda Creighton from the stage -- the junior minister was one in a series of speakers addressing the admirably attentive crowd, which included a large cohort of young Fine Gaellers clad in blue, orange or green T-shirts bearing snappy slogans such as 'Real Certainty' and 'Stability & Growth'.
There were also a good number of anxious-looking chaps sporting Leinster rugby shirts who were en route to the Ospreys' game in the RDS and were worried that the Taoiseach would be running late. (And they were right to be concerned -- Enda has such a poor timekeeping record that he's in danger of becoming known as The Late Taoiseach).
But it wasn't just the ground troops who had been dragged in out of the sun. The stage was fair heaving with senior brass -- Michael Noonan, Richard Bruton, James Reilly, Alan Shatter, Frances Fitzgerald and the lesser-spotted Phil Hogan were arrayed obediently in rows trying manfully not to throw longing looks at the door. Leo Varadkar had escaped earlier -- as part of his Fun Minister job he was heading to the RDS.
Maybe the heat had gone to his head, but the party's director of elections, Simon Coveney, was doing his best to paint Lucinda as a veritable Joan of Arc: "She wears her heart on her sleeve," he proclaimed, "she loves her country and her continent."
Just before 3pm, Enda swept into the room and up on to the stage and immediately launched a boot in the direction of the Independent deputy Shane Ross, who announced this weekend that he was supporting a No vote.
"I feel sorry for Shane, actually; he wants to vote Yes but he decided to vote No. Sometimes his judgment is a little off -- he did want Seanie Fitz as the Governor of the Central Bank," he pointed out with relish.
As this had been billed a family outing, there were face-painters and balloon-animals to keep the kiddies amused (though a few ministerial faces festooned with lions and dogs might have garnered some extra votes. But no sheep. And definitely no Tigers).
But this did lead to some unfortunate background sound effects. The Taoiseach was explaining why so many multinational companies flock to this country.
"They come here to Ireland because we offer a unique package in terms of our tax, our talent, our technology and our track record," he proclaimed to the sounds of balloons bursting around him.
He had a final warning for the canvassers for the last few days. "Between now and then, expect all kinds of tricks from people who have a different agenda," he predicted.
How prescient he was. For as Enda was making his way to the door, word filtered through that Declan Ganley and his No comrade Patricia Tsouros were lying in wait outside with amended Fine Gael and Labour election posters -- over the Yes to Jobs slogan, Declan had placed a big sticker reading 'When?'
The Young Fine Gaellers perked up. A rumble would make amends for being stuck indoors. And suddenly Enda found himself amid a flying wedge of orange, blue and green T-shirts who propelled him out the door, surrounded him in a circle as he climbed into his car and cheered loudly as he departed.
There was no confrontation. Some like it hot -- but not our Enda.