Tuesday 16 October 2018

Lise Hand: Hair-raising day in sleepy Dail when TV wise guys visit

Aidan Gillen and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor with Cait Hayes of the Oireachtas press office during a tour of Leinster House. The actors will portray Charlie Haughey and his press secretary PJ Mara
Aidan Gillen and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor with Cait Hayes of the Oireachtas press office during a tour of Leinster House. The actors will portray Charlie Haughey and his press secretary PJ Mara
Charlie Haughey and his press secretary PJ Mara

THERE was shock along the corridors of power as the most familiar gang boss in Ireland strolled through Leinster House without a care in the world.

As he walked by, the same stunned comment was whispered in his wake – "Jaysis, Nidge has hair!"

The usual semi-somnolent atmosphere of Thursday afternoon in the Irish parliament was shattered by the sight of two of 'Love/Hate's' toughest characters casing the joint.

Actors Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, aka Nidge, and Aidan Gillen who played criminal capo John Boy Power – who met a grisly end in season two, were being given a conducted tour of the building by Mark Mulqueen, the Head of Communications for the Oireachtas.

So what had prompted the two lads to abandon the mean streets for the even meaner by-ways of Leinster House?

It transpires that Tom and Aidan were doing some research for their new roles – Aidan has been cast as Charlie Haughey and Tom as his spin doctor PJ Mara in a new three-part political drama based on the life of the late Taoiseach which goes into production next week.

And so the pair were taken around the various rooms and venues which were the scenes for many a real-life drama between Haughey's bid for power in 1979 until his departure from the political stage in 1992.

They were taken to the visitors' gallery in the Dail chamber – alas the action unfolding at the time was less than gripping, with a debate on the Forestry Bill in half-full swing. (Although Nidge and John Boy would have both felt they were on familiar ground around the subject of trees, given the gangsters' penchant for using forests for shooting practice and shooting victims).

As usual when there are VIPs on the premises, the Oireachtas staff didn't bat an eyelid, although one individual did make a detour into the chamber for a quick look into the gallery. "Sure it's a relevant debate to monitor, as I've trees in my garden," was the cheerful defence.

Though some denizens of Leinster House didn't recognise Aidan and Tom as they toured the place; both were dressed casually, and Tom was sporting a bit more hair, unlike the trademark shaved head of Nidge.

They also took a trip along the ministerial corridor, but it being Thursday afternoon, there was a distinct dearth of occupants. However they did have a sit-down with the Leas Ceann Comhairle of the Dail, Fianna Fail's Michael Kitt who was a TD during most of the Haughey era, and also with a couple of other long-time occupants of Leinster House who had plenty of war stories about the colourful CJ and PJ.

"They seemed to get a lot out of the tour and the chats," said one observer. "They're interested in the power and charisma of Haughey."

And so fascinated were the duo by their debut visit to parliament, that they hope to make a return-trip, preferably when a bit of skin and hair is flying during a session of Leaders' Questions, so they can see the current Taoiseach in the thick of it.

Tom and Aidan spent over two hours wandering about and sitting in the Dail listening to tales of Haughey.

And in fairness, having played John Boy, Aidan certainly doesn't need to rehearse how to do menace.

However 'Nidge' will have to stop moaning "Ah, Trish," and start practising "Ah, Boss", a la the irrepressible press secretary.

And it was PJ Mara who memorably described Charlie's style of leadership as "Uno voce, una duce".

Nidge wouldn't have a bleedin' clue about the Latin, but he'd definitely agree with the sentiment.

Irish Independent

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