Wednesday 24 January 2018

It's a women's award but still a man's world

Mary McAleese
Mary McAleese
Lise Hand

Lise Hand

IT'S enough to make one quite despair at times.

An international conference of women politicians held a gala awards ceremony at the European Parliament in Brussels last week.

And, excitingly, Ireland was being presented with a gong in the 'Political Empowerment' category for 'Years with Female Head of State' -- 21 in total between the two Marys, Robinson and McAleese (right).

So who does the Government dispatch to represent the country at this event celebrating the political sisterhood? Yep, a man.

The Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, Paddy Burke, attended the event on Wednesday night during the inaugural annual summit of the Women in Parliaments Global Forum (WIP).

Why, oh why?

Now Paddy is a decent chap who certainly would never disgrace us in any setting, but surely one single female politician could have been drummed up from among the admittedly paltry 45 women among our 166 TDs and the senators?

According to one protocol insider, the original invitation would have gone first to the Department of the Taoiseach.

But the Taoiseach's office directed The Diary to the press office of the Oireachtas.

"It was decided that as the award was coming from the EU parliament, then an office-holder of parliament should go, but Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett had an engagement, so the Cathaoirleach went," said an Oireachtas spokesperson.

But the protocol expert said that any serving politician could have been selected.

So why weren't the eminent female likes of ministers Joan Burton, Kathleen Lynch or Jan O'Sullivan asked to go and get the gong?

Paddy admitted that the gathering had been "over 90pc women". He added: "I was honoured to represent the women of our parliament."

Of course he was, and fair play to him.

But couldn't someone have bestirred himself to cherchez la femme, non?


Brendan's the new Minister for Elf

It's a rare day when a Dub gets one over on a Kerryman (except in Croker last September, of course), but junior minister Brian Hayes managed such a feat this week.

Fine Gael's Brendan Griffin was delighted to get a call from his party colleague, Dublin South West's Brian, who explained he was unable to participate in an event in Dublin Castle and asked if Brendan wouldn't mind standing in.

The Kerry South TD happily agreed, doubtless hoping he'd be playing host at a high-powered reception. But no, he discovered that he was turning on the castle's Christmas lights. And what's more, he found himself entering the historic courtyard sitting in a sleigh driven by Santa.

"I've always dreamed of making a big entrance into Dublin Castle, like Michael Collins sweeping up in a big car, and there I was in a sleigh," said the rueful Brendan, whose nicknames now include Santa's Little Helper and Minister for Elf.

On a merrier note, the deputy has just published his first novel, a children's book titled 'Moonlit River'.

The first of a planned trilogy, it tells the story of a young boy who moves to Kerry in the wake of tragedy to live with his grandfather and who gets caught up in mysterious happenings in his new village.

Brendan, who was elected to the Dail in 2011, began writing his novel in 2007 when he took over a local bar, The Castle Inn in Castlemaine. "Monday to Wednesday nights were very quiet, there'd be tumbleweed in the bar. So I sat at the counter and began writing a short story, which then became a long story," he explained.


Historian unearths a long-lost diamond

Academic and historian Diarmaid Ferriter was sporting the blissful expression of a young lad cradling a brand-new X-Box One.

He and Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett were in Leinster House on Thursday evening to launch their massive online Oireachtas Library catalogue, which gives the public, including scholars like Diarmaid – access to over 80,000 reports, maps, documents and pamphlets spanning three centuries.

And it hadn't taken him long to find some interesting stuff, such as a satirical magazine published in the late 1800s called 'Irish Diamond', which he reckoned revealed "a determination to satirise political representatives and public representatives who are deemed to be too full of ego or too full of self-importance".

An admirable occupation. Alas, 300 years of poking fun hasn't made a blind bit of difference to that unkillable beast, the Political Ego.

Irish Independent

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