Thursday 20 June 2019

Crash, bang, wallop: backdrop falls down around Paschal, but he laughs off mishaps

Speech: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Tony Gavin
Speech: Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Tony Gavin
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

The minister would talk to us - "but it won't be outside", winced a press officer.

"Outside" being Dublin's Harcourt Street - with the unsettlingly close proximity of the Dean hotel, the scene of Maria Bailey's undignified tumble from grace. Not a backdrop any Fine Gael TD would have any intention of being within an ass's roar of at this particular moment in time.

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But at the Iveagh hotel, Paschal Donohoe was scheduled to speak at an event mystifyingly titled: 'The growing Blockchain system and the role of Government'. And so that's exactly what he did.

The room was warm and cramped, filled with over 80 participants of what is apparently called 'The Blockchain Community'.

Paschal rose to the podium to give his speech - and promptly hit his head off a low-lying light fitting.

Yikes. But he was quick to take personal responsibility for his misfortune. He laughed it off. "I was far too eager," he explained.

He went on with his talk about how we live in a world where "algorithms will increasingly be used to determine the distribution of important public goods, including work, loans, housing and insurance".

Everything was going fine.

Suddenly, crash. Bang. Wallop. The backdrop at the side of the stage came down with a resounding clatter.

The minister nearly jumped out of his skin.

"It's been eventful," he gasped. "Can I just check to see if everyone is ok?"

There was a roar of laughter.

At the back of the room, a press officer groaned and shook his head.

Afterwards, the minister was ruefully philosophical of this Laurel and Hardy-type concatenation of disasters, chuckling: "I hope people noticed how quickly I recovered."

He's hardly likely to sue for his injuries.

It was an unsettling day for Fine Gael, with still a lot of anger and embarrassment behind the scenes at how Maria Bailey's 'swing gate' incident had put them on the ropes.

But there was also a rising note of sympathy because of the severity of the backlash.

Maria Bailey 'memes' were shared. There was even a rather addictive computer game featuring a woman falling off a swing where the object was to avoid the floating beverages.

There were minefields everywhere at Leinster House, too.

The Taoiseach was in the Dáil chamber earlier for questions.

Willie O'Dea, over the far side of the room, wanted to know about what measures were being taken to lower the costs of insurance.

Louise O'Reilly of Sinn Féin also chipped in on the same topic, apologetically saying: "You won't thank us, Taoiseach, for raising this but it's not in the context of what's happening."

She had got a letter from a constituent, she explained.

Looking uncomfortable, Leo rubbed the side of his nose but Charlie Flanagan stepped in to the rescue.

"I share the deputies' concern," he said.

He appealed to the Opposition to assist in the enactment of the judicial council bill which will set guidelines for judges in personal injury cases and actions.

Gardaí would have a greater involvement in the issue of insurance fraud.

"Any fraud is a crime and should be treated as such," the minister said firmly.

Leo was to meet with Maria shortly after lunchtime - and then a blanket of silence fell.

Someone had spotted her around the building. Someone else had heard her voice.

Finally, came the terse statement that the party will undertake an internal review to "establish all facts".

Maria has agreed to "participate fully".

Irish Independent

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