Nice and steady Enda keeps the 'shock' out of Taoiseach
There was nothing wrong with Enda's diction when he settled into the 'Morning Ireland' hot-seat for his breakfast interview just after 8.30am yesterday during his party's think-in.
There were no frogs lurking in the Taoiseach's throat, no M50-on-a-bank-holiday-Friday levels of congestion to spark a red alert among party handlers. He didn't say anything controversial. He didn't say anything particularly riveting either.
That's just the way that Fine Gael like it these days -- nice and steady as she goes and nothing to put the 'shock' into 'Taoiseach'.
Not that the 99 ladies and gentlemen of the parliamentary party are all a bunch of fun-free teetotal paragons of restraint either. On Monday night the TDs and senators indulged in a few sherries at dinner at the Radisson Blu and a spot of impromptu crooning in the bar afterwards. There was a jolly mood at dinner, despite the fact that several of the hungrier politicians were practically gnawing the legs of the tables by the time the main course was dished up at 10.45pm (a disconsolate Environment Minister Phil Hogan had to part with 100 scoots to a colleague after wrongly betting that the grub would arrive before 10.30pm).
There was even a piano player lined up in the bar to provide a civilised backdrop of music. That lasted about five minutes before a few eager 'X-Factor' wannabes took possession of the microphone, kicking off with a robust rendition of Billy Joel's 'Piano Man' from North Kildare's Anthony Lawlor. The leather-lunged deputy belted out Billy and butterflies died somewhere in South America.
There was a rumour circulating the following day that another TD treated his audience to a wee small hours version of 'The Lakes of Ponchartrain' -- the very tune which landed Brian Cowen in such hot water in last year's Garglegate, but the alleged culprit semi-vociferously protested his innocence (he was a little hoarse).
Enda did turn up in the bar after dinner, but although he circulated for some time chatting to his troops, he wasn't spotted in the vicinity of a pint at all. And then he headed off up the wooden hill to bed, nice and steady as he goes.
After all, there was actually some work to be done at this think-in -- or at least a hell of a lot of advance scheming for what's shaping up to be a hectic Dail term when it re-opens for business next Wednesday.
For there's the presidential election, two referenda, a by-election in Dublin West to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Brian Lenihan, all to take place on October 27.
Then Finance Minister Michael Noonan will unleash his three-year blueprint on how he plans to tackle the black hole where the Irish economy used to be, followed by what promises to be a hair-raising hair-shirt Budget in December.
And once the Dail resumes next week, the race for the Aras will get under way in earnest. During the two-day talk-fest there was a big effort to convince all and sundry that Enda and the Chosen One, Gay Mitchell, are great pals altogether -- whenever the Taoiseach appeared near a camera or atop a stage, there was the party's presidential nominee all but Velcroed to his trouser-leg.
At the closing press conference yesterday, Enda made a point of heaping praise on the blushing head of Gay, who had addressed the gathering during their morning session.
"He got a standing ovation at his presentation here in respect of his credentials to be the next President of Ireland," he said.
And indeed various party members were wandering around the hotel with packets of freshly-printed Gay Mitchell flyers showing the Fine Gael candidate looking most presidential against the backdrop of the Tricolour, and over a slogan which proclaims 'Pride at Home, Respect Abroad'.
Longtime Fine Gael member Phil Carey turned up in the hotel with home-made buns -- one for each member of the 99 parliamentary party members (and one left over). She circulated the room, presenting them (each thoughtfully wrapped in a blue bag) to a grinning Michael Noonan, Richard Bruton and Enda Kenny.
And the redoubtable pensioner even performing one of her own compositions for the ministers and the Taoiseach -- a song she had written in the 1980s for Garret FitzGerald.
"This country of ours is in a fine mess from Fianna Fail who bring down the rest. Their greed for power, their mercs and all, they'll take the lot because they're Fianna Fail," she sang with gusto.
"Well done," said Enda after the song was over, then made good his escape. The proximity of the words 'singing', 'Taoiseach' and 'Galway' made him a little jumpy.
Understandably. Nice and easy does it every time.