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Lise Hand: Partners enjoy purple patch

IT just goes to show that one never knows what goes on behind the closed doors of the seemingly most sunny of relationships.

One year into their shotgun marriage and it seems that there are little tiffs between the Coalition Couple, as the Tanaiste confessed in an Oprah moment yesterday.

"There are of course issues. I could say there are issues probably every week which we have to talk with each other about," he admitted.

However, Eamon Gilmore knows that the secret to overcoming speed bumps on the rocky road of political togetherness is to never let the sun set on his or Enda's anger.

"But we do talk about them, we solve them and we get on with business," he revealed.

And in fairness, one has the distinct sense that any squabbles between the Taoiseach and Tanaiste do not end in monogrammed crockery being flung about Enda's office.

In fact, they appear to be still quite pleased with each other -- yesterday as they emerged smilingly together to present their progress report on their first year in power, their mutual harmony was emphasised by the fact they were dressed almost identically in nice yellow ties, pale blue shirts and dark suits.

And what's more, the glossy cover of their joint report card was a tasteful purple. ("Which two colours make up purple?" whispered a government press officer knowingly. The answer being, of course, Labour Red and Fine Gael Blue).

There was no doubt that overall, the Purple Reign is going swimmingly.

If Enda and Eamon were chocolate rabbits, they'd eat themselves by Easter.

When asked if he and the Taoiseach's relationship was warmer or cooler, 12 months after they joined together in coalition, Eamon barely hesitated. "I think it's warmer," he reckoned.

"Remember, this time last year we had just come out of a general election where we were knocking lumps off each other, competing as political parties do in an election," he added.

Enda was less effusive.

"This is not an issue about any personalities internal to the Government. It's irrelevant about the perceived personality clashes that might or might not arise from time to time," he said briskly.

But hey, this wasn't all about them. This was supposed to be all about Team Enda. Repeatedly throughout the election campaign a year ago, Enda had cheerfully talked up how he would keep a report card on his ministers and pass judgment on each of them when their first 12 months were up.

And so there was a widespread assumption that as the first anniversary rolled around (which, in fact, falls tomorrow), Enda was getting the gold stars in. But then the Taoiseach began to backtrack, declaring that while he had interviewed his full squad of senior and junior ministers on their progress, none of them would be publicly either given a prize or ordered to take an early bath.

All that was for public consumption was the nice purple report which went heavy on the Government's successes, and tiptoed past their failures. And there wasn't a single gold star or a stern admonition to slacking ministers that they must try harder.

How disappointing. Sure, you'd see more stars in the RTE canteen on a wet Monday. There had been such great expectations that yesterday would be sort of an Ash Wednesday in reverse.

Instead of walking about Leinster House with the black smut of the penitent sinner, ministers would be exiting Enda's office sporting big gold stars on their foreheads. Or else their P45s.

And Enda was eager to play down this notion that this was merely an exercise in mutual backslapping.

"I'm not here to either look for credit or seek gold medals for this report.

"This is a sober analysis of the actions that have been taken by government in respect of our programme,

"This is not a case of coming out here blowing trumpets, saying we've turned corners and everything's rosy in the garden," he added.

Eamon chipped in to agree with Enda. "We're not making exaggerated claims here, we have made progress," he declared.

"What we're committed to do together is to work night and day to work to resolve those problems," he vowed.

Alas for the Purple Reign, not all their subjects are so loyal.

Independent TD Finian McGrath sniffed: "My marks on the school report are a D-minus."

But Enda fared a little better. "We've a happy-clappy Taoiseach which I accept as a positive," reckoned Finian, polishing a silver star. "On a personal level I'll give him a C."

Maith an buachaill, happyclappy Enda.

Irish Independent