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There's no derailing Leo's train of thought as cabinet chatterbox stays on message

LEO was late, and seemed to be later still, thanks to the bitterly cold gusts of wind swirling through the posh new entrance to Pearse Street station.

As the Dail is still – still – on its Easter holidays, the Transport Minister had found time (eventually) to nip down the road from his department and officially open the sweeping new entrance to the busiest commuter train station in the capital.

Although he must be used to these set-piece engagements after over two years in office, Leo always looks a little awkward posing for the cameras with the inevitable variety of props. This time he was handed a rather flash-looking pair of gold scissors with which to snip the obligatory ribbon.

Or perhaps he just looked a little wary, for lurking by the official opening plaque was a beady-eyed pack of reporters seeking a word with him about this, that and the other.

For Leo is always worth having a word with, due to his happy (for the media) propensity for answering questions with the first reply to pop into his head.

Now this flies directly in the face of the golden rule inscribed in the 'Politician's Guide to Dealing with the Perfidious Press', which commands: "Thou Shalt Not Speak the Unvarnished Truth Nor Offer Candid Personal Opinions Unless Thou Fancies A Spell In Political Purgatory."

But our Leo pays little heed to such cautious directives. Sure it was only over a week ago when he aroused the wrath of Mna na hEireann with comments over childcare costs in relation to mooted insolvency rules and had to hastily backtrack after an unamused Taoiseach got it in the neck over his remarks.

Yesterday, Leo was at pains to ensure that he said nothing to derail the somewhat fragile equilibrium of the Coalition.

He was reluctant to comment on that morning's announcement that the Financial Regulator, Matthew Elderfield, was stepping down from his post. He reckoned that the chap "had done a very good job in helping to clean up some of the financial sector and I'm disappointed that he's going," he said in a answer straight from the 'Politician's Guide'.

Likewise, he tiptoed past a question about the Taoiseach's department forking out over €22,000 over a six-month period to pay for various either minor or former VIPs availing of the VIP facilities in Dublin Airport.

So what did he have to say about the demise of Maggie Thatcher? After all, the Dublin West deputy was more than once accused of being ad idem with the political philosophies of the Iron Lady. Labour's Roisin Shortall once said Leo sounded like "the Maggie Thatcher of Irish politics".

Leo was far more forthcoming on this subject. "She's obviously one of the foremost political figures of the last century," he said. "A lot of people would have differing opinions on her policies but there's one thing you can definitely say about Margaret Thatcher."

And what would that be, Minister?

"She said what she meant, and she meant what she said, and when she got elected, she did what she said she'd do and we probably need more politicians like that," he declared firmly.

So is that a trait he related to himself, then? Leo spluttered with nervous laughter. "That's for other people to judge me," he dodged.

It's a hard station, being the cabinet chatterbox.

Irish Independent