Thursday 14 December 2017

Perfect day for Kenny and tribe

JOHN DRENNAN Political Editor

DEAR Leader Enda and the Government may, to paraphrase the Taoiseach after that unfortunate Seanad bother, have received a bit of a wallop in the opinion polls.

Happily, as is increasingly the case with Enda, and the Coalition for that matter, none of that polling unpleasantness from the real world dared to intrude on the Alice in Wonderland perfection of the Fine Gael Ard Fheis.

Yesterday was Fine Gael's first homecoming to the dusty aristocratic splendour of the RDS since 2001 when the party was but one year away from immolation.

Entire worlds have changed since then; well except for the composition of the Cabinet, but when it came to the return there could be no doubt who the homecoming queen was.

Dear Leader Enda might have stumbled racing on to the stage but that was about the only flaw in the great pre-election gathering of the Fine Gael tribe.

Unlike the good old days when Fine Gael was a dysfunctional family that was permanently at war, the closest we came to trouble was when Mairead McGuinness and Jim Higgins, the close Fine Gael European team, were paired together for the Taoiseach's doorstep.

Higgins smiled like moonlight on a tombstone as Mairead asked did the photographers want them to embrace, before the arrival of Mr Kenny cast the pixie-dust of niceness back over everything.

Outside of that brief encounter, in an intriguing indicator of the nature of modern politics, the dominant feature of the Fine Gael Ard Fheis was the Good Food Ireland stand.

In truth the tasty delights provided by Donnybrook Fair and the Mulberry Garden – not to forget the delightful biscuits provided by Dylan – were far more delightful than the normal Ard Fheis fare.

That wasn't the end of the sweetness and light at King Enda's pre-election Ard Fheis warm-up either, for outside of Bossman Enda, the delegates queued up to worship at the shrine of our national fiscal grandfather Michael Noonan.

As the delegates issued throaty cheers at the promise of future tax cuts, Cute Old Phil Hogan, meanwhile, was draped by a breeze of local election candidates in the manner that Wordsworth used be surrounded by daffodils.

Cute Old Phil reminded us of his capacity to use the butt of the hurl as he noted of the Tom McFeely interview on BBC that it was surely the "most outrageous waste of free speech" in the history of public service broadcasting.

Of course, Fine Gael's new status as the Scientologists of Irish politics where it's all about numbers now not ideology meant that outside of Enda the candidates were the stars.

As Enda celebrated the presence of all the 'lovely girls', despite all the professionalism (and free cakes), it was hard not to feel some level of nostalgia for the old Fine Gael family at war.

They may have not been terribly successful but they were at least entertaining in a ramshackle sort of way.

Sunday Independent

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