Lise Hand: Noonan has his cake and eats it at birthday bash
IT'S probably not the wisest idea to throw a surprise party for any EU finance minister these days. The poor things are only living on their nerves.
And so this week's birthday boy Michael Noonan was quietly tipped off beforehand that a hooley to celebrate his big 7-0 had been organised in his honour.
The hostelry selected by party organisers, Tipp South deputy Tom Hayes and Clare TD Pat Breen, for the revelry was Smyth's pub on Haddington Road, which is no more than a bracing stagger away from Leinster House.
And about 30 members of Fine Gael's parliamentary party turned up, including ministers James Reilly, Leo Varadkar and Frances Fitzgerald, although the Taoiseach couldn't attend, being somewhere between Brussels and Athens at the time. And there was even a non-Blueshirt invitee, in the shape of Fianna Fail senator Ned O'Sullivan.
One tired guest said the following day that Birthday Baldy "was in his element. There was a bit of singing, and we gave him a cake".
Perhaps the venue was selected for a double celebration, for the very next day the offspring of the Croke Park Agreement was born amid government fanfare – and lo and behold – it was christened the Haddington Road Agreement.
But why wasn't it dubbed the Beggars Bush Agreement, given the deal was hammered out in the Labour Relations Commission's HQ in Beggars Bush? Employing that logic, the original Croke Park accord should've been named the Jones's Road Agreement, surely?
Maybe some smart cookie in the LRC had checked out the history of Beggars Bush and discovered that several centuries ago it was believed to be the meeting point for highwaymen who robbed the local inhabitants blind.
Aha. No wonder they passed on the name. That would've been just begging for trouble.
What do you give the man who has everything? A framed photo of a calf
So what do you give the man who has everything? As in, say, absolute power over 1.3 billion people? The problem didn't knock a feather out of Fine Gael's Pat Breen when he was ushered into the presence of China's leader Xi Jinping last week.
The Clare TD was part of a delegation of Oireachtas globe-trotters led by the Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett on a trade mission to China – the others in the posse being deputies Tom Hayes, Andrew Doyle, Dara Calleary and John Lyons, and Seanad Cathaoirleach Paddy Burke.
And the lads were given the full works – a tour of the Forbidden City and a rare 50-minute meeting with Xi Jinping.
Pat was mindful that the Chinese premier had declared that one of the highlights of his trip to Ireland in February 2012 was his visit to a dairy farm in Sixmilebridge where a newborn calf was named Xi Jinping in his honour.
And so, before leaving for the Far East, the canny Clare TD hotfooted it back to James Lynch's farm and took a photo of the now-15-month-old animal, framed it and presented it to the man himself in Beijing.
"He was delighted with it, and told me that the photo of him at the Cliffs of Moher is hanging on his office wall," said Pat, who added that Xi Jinping offered to become "an ambassador for the Cliffs of Moher".
Sure why not? After all, on a Clare day you can Xi forever . . .
Little Richard sings praises of Big Phil
After crossing swords in the leadership heave three years back, Big Phil Hogan and Little Richard Bruton proved their relationship has blossomed in the intervening period when their paths crossed in Swords this week.
The three wise men of generating business at a local level, Big Phil, Little Richard and Jaunty John Perry made their way to Fingal County Council to promote LEOs. (Not the cloning of Leo Varadkar for a Blueshirt Army but the Local Enterprise Offices.)
After delivering his few words, Little Richard had the pleasure of calling on his pal and gushed forth about Big Phil's great efforts at local level. "I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to introduce Phil. It's always Phil introducing others," he declared admiringly.
Goodness, how things have changed. Could Big Phil finally be out of deep water?
Because also this week the Environment Minister nipped out to Dun Laoghaire to bestow 74 Blue Flags to Irish beaches. And for the first time in ages, there was no anti-household charge protest led by local TD Richard Boyd Barrett to welcome him to the constituency. "Maybe he's embarrassed because the compliance rate in Dun Laoghaire is so high," mused Phil.
Shatter leaves them feeling awkward
The Justice Minister was in full flow in the Dail chamber last Tuesday evening, though he was in clear breach of the Trade Descriptions Act pertaining to the word 'sorry'.
Alan Shatter was answering questions on the penalty points imbroglio, and was vociferously denying that he had leaked any information to any grubby member of the fourth estate. "I don't talk to journalists," he loftily explained. "Journalists find me quite awkward, as some of them might tell the deputy."
Labour's Kevin Humphreys decided to indulge in some dangerous comedy. "I confirm that it is not only journalists who find him awkward but a few of us in the House do so as well," he bravely informed Alan.
"Oooo," gasped his impressed colleagues. "There'll be a file opened on you, now," reckoned one opposition TD. The minister muttered something under his (ahem) breath. But it was inaudible, alas.