Pinkredible -- peace and love break out in Leinster House
WHEN you see Big Phil Hogan, Leinster House's version of the Big Friendly Giant, lurking on the plinth rocking a pink tie you know there's something strange afoot in the corridors of power.
But the Environment Minister wasn't alone in getting (briefly) in touch with his inner goddess yesterday -- at 1pm the plinth was packed with 40 shades of pink. It was a riot of cerise, peach, plum, fuchsia, rose, blush and coral, sported on dresses, skirts, men's shirts and ties.
And in the middle of this panoply of pink were Ming Flanagan and Mary Mitchell O'Connor.
What had happened? Only two days ago the pair of them were at war in the aftermath of the Piggygate hoohah, but now it looked as if everything was rosy in the garden.
What had happened was that Mary, with the help of a few smart women, had figured out a way to turn a negative story into positive publicity.
For after the Muppets (Ming, Mick Wallace and Shane Ross) were caught discussing the Dun Laoghaire TD in most unflattering terms on a live mic in the Dail, a humiliated Mary was approached by Labour's Anne Ferris who suggested that they organise a Pink Friday.
It would be part solidarity against the rude remarks made about a female member of parliament but also an opportunity to raise funds for breast cancer through their pink ribbon campaign.
And so word went around the House to wear pink on Friday. And to their credit, a whole heap of TDs, senators and Leinster House staff all togged out.
Fine Gael's Kieran O'Donnell arrived to work oblivious of the edict, and upon finding out about Pink Friday, hustled out to Grafton Street and purchased an appropriate tie, and Fianna Fail senator Averil Power turned up straight off a flight from Bahrain where she'd travelled as part of a delegation protesting against the plight of jailed doctors in the country.
And the merry crowd who turned out for the photoshoot added a jolly air to Leinster House.
In a lesson in how to never underestimate the ability of a politician to be blase in the face of adversity, out strolled Ming, resplendent in an extremely stylish salmon-pink jacket and a striking patterned tie. He was Ming the Magnificent.
Ming -- no fool he -- had acquired his oh-so-chic ensemble courtesy of none other than Louis Copeland, who has transformed political sows' ears into bespoke silk purses for years.
The enterprising deputy, sensing that Pink Friday would pique the interest of the press, put a call into Louis' emporium of suits.
"He rang me looking for a pink jacket, and at first I thought it was Mario Rosenstock ringing for a wind-up," said Louis.
But by yesterday morning the Independent TD was kitted out in a €600 Canali jacket and Duchamp tie. And better still, he doesn't have to give them back. "It's our way of contributing to the occasion, and we'll also make a donation to the charity," explained Louis. "And if Ming ever gets sick of politics, he'd make a great model," he added.
No wonder Ming looked so delighted. He happily posed with Mary, who was, of course, head to toe in pink. "We've got a lot of good publicity for a good cause," she said, as her new best friend explained, "Unfortunately my own mother died two years ago of breast cancer so anything I can do to highlight it . . ."
And when it was suggested that both he and Mary auction off their salmon and pink jackets for charity, Ming didn't bat an eyelid. "Why not, we can put them up on eBay," he said.
So was there any chance that Ming might take to this suit-wearing lark? "I like wearing suits," he explained. "But I just don't like being told what to do. I wear what I want, and so does Mary and fair play to her."
Golly, peace was breaking out all over the place. But where were the other two Muppets in all this? Well, Shane Ross was around and about, but was sticking to conservative colours. Getting caught indulging in some schoolboy sniggering was evidently enough excitement for him for one week.
And where was the chap who started it all -- Mick Wallace, the Prince of Pink?
In what could only be described as the most churlish of strops, the Wexford TD was nowhere in sight, although he did turn up in the Dail chamber, dressed most uncharacteristically in bright yellow -- the colour of a fluffy chicken.
Moreover, thankfully it looks as if this will be the end of the rumpus over who wears what in Leinster House, as the proposed changes to the dress code for deputies, which was scheduled to be introduced next term, has been quietly dropped from next week's Dail business despite a motion being agreed last week.
The new rule, which would have required the casual likes of Mick and Ming to wear "a tailored jacket and trousers and a collared shirt" in the House, would have inevitably caused ructions.
"The media would've had a field day at the sight of Ming or Mick being carried out of the Dail chamber for defying the rule," said one source.
Indeed. So the rule-makers saw sense. And all concerned are tickled pink. Except for Big Phil -- he tiptoed away from the plinth, just before the cameras began to roll.