Sunday 22 April 2018

It's pure poetry as Joan and Enda wax lyrical in Lissadell

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with the Cassidy-Walsh family outside Lissadell House yesterday
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with the Cassidy-Walsh family outside Lissadell House yesterday
Lise Hand

Lise Hand

Maybe it was all the fresh air swirling about on the Atlantic coastline, or perhaps a touch of gate-fever had taken hold of the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, but the duo were a right pair of giddy goats after the last Cabinet meeting of the summer term had concluded.

Before the whole lot of them (bar Paschal Donohoe, Brendan Howlin and Alan Kelly) settled down around the same large dining table in Lissadell House, where previously the likes of WB Yeats (Willie to his friends) and Constance Markiewicz had met, Joan explained that she and Enda had a pre-Cabinet tête-à-tête "in a room I'm reliably informed is the boudoir," she giggled. The Taoiseach rose gallantly to the occasion. "The marriage isn't on the rocks," he assured her, and then he giggled too.

He then went further, politically speaking. "Despite all the cynics, Joan, who say the aul' marriage politically isn't working, we're getting on well together. There's always tensions in every house every now and again, but these things are overcomeable".

Joan agreed. "We're still talking". And they giggled again. It was most unnerving. Coalition partnerships are supposed to be grim affairs with a doomy 'EastEnders' tinge. And here was the Tánaiste playing Constance to the Taoiseach's Willie.

Joan Burton was bubbling with excitement to find herself in the homestead of such a famously feisty woman after Enda decided to haul his officers across to Sligo to Lissadell to mark the 150th anniversary of Yeats's birth.

"I was very happy today that there was five women around the Cabinet table and I do feel that Constance would have approved, even if the progress has been, probably slower than a lot of us, Taoiseach - being honest with you - would otherwise like, now that we're in this frank conversational mood," she teased.

So surely, being so politically loved-up and all that, a pre-election pact between Fine Gael and Labour can't be ruled out? The Taoiseach paused. "That's a matter we will look at later on," he teased, before the pair of them rushed to insist that both parties would be contesting the election as separate entities with their own manifestos.

What's more, Enda insists he is staying wed to Joan until the end of the Coalition's mandate do they part. "Everybody else seems to be focused on an immediate election now, well I'm not," he declared with feeling.

But even he looked a little startled when his political partner referenced the Yeats poem, 'Sailing to Byzantium'. "What was it, the young in one another's arms?" she mused, before hastily adding, "but let's not get carried away with poetry".

It was all a bit too much for some of the younger ministers who had been close by, eavesdropping on the interview. Leo and Simon were sporting the gobsmacked visages of two brothers who had unexpectedly found Mammy and Daddy canoodling in the kitchen.

It was supposed to be a fun day out, after all. Enda had been adamant about his away-day. He had told the châtelaine of Lissadell, Constance Cassidy, that she wasn't to go to any bother at all. A cup of tea in the hand, a few tomato sandwiches, and maybe a bun or two, and the job would be oxo. They were all even ditching their ministerial cars and travelling together on the bus for a bit of end-of-term bonding and a sing-song.

And sure as it turned out, the bucolic peace of a leafy corner of Sligo wasn't rudely shattered at all.

You'd have hardly noticed the cavalcade of garda horse-boxes snaking down the road towards Lissadell, or the convoy of garda cars and motorbikes, or the uniformed lads manning the entrances to the estate. And the helicopter hovering overhead was fierce quiet.

Inside the grounds of Lissadell House, the Cassidy-Walsh clan had been hard at work, polishing the brasses, strimming the lawns and making trays of sangers. There was egg mayonnaise, cheese and ham (but no onions, in view of the long trip home on Enda's Disco Bus). Crusts on or off? "On," said Constance cheerfully.

Some ministers, including Leo, hadn't taken the bus. In fact the Health Minister was lamentably late turning up for Cabinet. "Fingers were drumming on the table by the time he arrived. He came in looking as bold as Dennis the Menace - all that was missing was a catapult sticking out of his pocket".

Ah well, at least he didn't start quoting Yeats poetry to his boss - like the line about that being no country for old men…

Irish Independent

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