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Lise Hand: Mick -- the Dail's Next Top Model

Gleeful wolf-whistles suddenly rose from the crocodile of school-kids filing up Kildare Street.

For they had spotted Leinster House's most glamorous member in full modelling flight, stretched out along the ground on the far side of the road with a group of colleagues and rail of party frocks providing a tasteful backdrop.

The students recognised the deputy in an instant -- the flowing peroxide locks, the bright-pink top.

Yep, it was Mick Wallace and no mistake.

And blessed indeed was Mick amongst women. For as a nod to his, eh, unique sartorial style, the Wexford TD was the only male politician invited to take part in an event to support the Buy My Dress fundraiser in aid of the Down Syndrome Centre.

The rather ingenious idea -- particularly in these straitened times -- is to ask women to liberate an unwanted frock from the back of the wardrobe and donate it to one of several pop-up clothes sales taking place in eight different venues around Ireland later this month.

And it would be a rare wardrobe that didn't contain an impulse-buy guna that is in dire need of a new home.

And once again the women of the Oireachtas delivered the goods yesterday by donating all sorts of rather lovely frocks to the cause.

Fine Gael's Mary Mitchell O'Connor has certainly brightened up Leinster House since her arrival, what with her stunt driving over the plinth on Day One and also with her equally adventurous fashion style -- the Dun Laoghaire TD is a great woman for the vertiginous heels, and more than once, reporters in the press gallery have held their breath as she carefully negotiates the steep steps of the Dail chamber.

Mary had brought along a bright blue-and-green patterned party dress.

"It's never been worn," she explained. "I bought it for a wedding but then the bride called the whole thing off, and then I thought the dress might be bad luck".

She's fond of vivid colours, although one shade is falling out of favour. "I've gone off pink since Mick Wallace wears so much of it," she added.

Another new TD, Labour's Anne Ferris, donated a very smart dark gold shirt and jacket. "I don't have the patience or time to shop these days," she sighed.

And a host of newly-elected senators, including Cait Keane and Susan O'Keeffe, turned up to the coffee morning with an assortment of dresses.

Petite Kathryn Reilly of Sinn Fein was handing over a chic blue Chinese-style dress she had bought in New York but had never worn.

"I just never found the right occasion for it," she said. "But while looking for a dress to donate, I did spring-clean my wardrobe and now I've loads of room to buy new stuff," she beamed.

Now that's the attitude that will get the economy up and running again, fair play to her.

And Fianna Fail's Averil Power obliged the photographers by modelling her donated dress -- a lovely halter-neck teal-coloured frock that she was parting with for a very good reason.

"It's too big for me," she explained. "I lost eight pounds in emotional weight during the general election and Seanad campaigns.

"I was walking for about eight hours every days -- it was a sort of political Lough Derg," she laughed.

And the poor sole man Mick Wallace -- who arrived armed with one of his trademark pink shirts (unironed) -- was put through his modelling paces, pushing clothes rails and lying on the road.

"It's the Oireachtas Next Top Model," wisecracked Kathryn.

Kellogg's Special K Buy My Dress is holding 'Pop-up in Aid of Down Syndrome Centre' in eight locations -- Dublin, Gorey, Kilkenny, Cork, Tralee, Limerick, Galway and Castlebar.

The events, which are organised by volunteer teams, will run from 10am to 6pm on Saturday, May 28.

See www.buymydress.ie for details.

Irish Independent