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Lise Hand: High-flying Joan insists her feet will be on the ground when kite season starts

NEVER mind the usual poetic guff about autumn being the season of mist and mellow fruitfulness.

In the political calendar, autumn -- specifically the fraught three-month run-up to the Budget -- is the season of rampant rumour-mongering, lashings of leaks and more spinning than a field full of windmills.

Last year's spin-fest was especially fevered, and fingers were pointed at a couple of cabinet ministers -- James Reilly and Joan Burton in particular -- as being the chief culprits in the business of putting the frighteners on folk in advance of December's Budget.

And so on Wednesday at his party's think-in, Eamon Gilmore went into full muinteoir mode and issued a stern edict to any cailini or buachailli dana among the Labour ranks who were planning to blab to the media over the coming weeks.

"I hope that we don't see a season of kite-flying and rumours and leaks that are giving rise to unnecessary concerns," he warned, as behind him a demure Social Protection Minister directed her gaze at the ground.

Yesterday, Joan Burton was under the gaze of several actual teachers when she visited the Rutland National School in Dublin's north inner city to launch a guide to school breakfast clubs.

Her department contributes €35m to the scheme -- in 2011, over 1,100 schools took part in breakfast clubs, with 139,000 pupils benefiting from getting a nutritious and healthy start to the day.

So did the Social Protection Minister -- herself being in the frame as one of the individuals who floated more than one kite last autumn-- agree with Eamon Gilmore's dim view of this sort of carry-on?

Joan was sporting her best 'it wasn't me' expression, explaining that it was the big boys of the media who did it and ran away. "Well, we have a very active media in this country and sometimes I stand back at the ingenuity of the media in accessing information.

"They seem to know information at times before the ministers do," she said, radiating innocence.

The minister reckoned that the pesky press ferreted out the information from all sorts of material in the public domain, rather than being slipped gift-wrapped kites by manoeuvring ministers.

And while she did sort of back up the Tanaiste's disapproval -- "I think what Eamon was saying about the run-up to the Budget was important," she agreed, Joan also made it clear that when it comes to guarding her department, she'll fight like a mama grizzly.

So as the axes are sharped in the Department of Finance, it may be that the kites will stay grounded for fear of reprisals.

Or some rumours may take to the skies, courtesy of Joan-Air, no matter what Teacher says.

Irish Independent