Monday 20 May 2019

It's a ministers' country and western photo-op, so go stand by yer man

Paschal Donohoe (left) and Michael Ring
Paschal Donohoe (left) and Michael Ring

Lise Hand

MICHAEL Ring asked the musicians to play something. "Do 'Ring of Fire' – that's my song," he announced with a grin. Beside him, his new senior minister Paschal Donohoe raised an eyebrow.

"I would've had you down as more of an 'I Walk the Line' man," he joshed.

Both of them were standing in the middle of a city centre laneway, wearing cowboy hats and leaning on bales of hay.

There are two sorts of politicians – those who embrace the notion of props in photo-shoots and those who run gibbering from the sight of a rubber hammer/ hard hat/giant packet of crisps and a melee of lurking snappers.

But when one works in the department overseeing all things sports and tourism, the prop potential is particularly high. The departed senior minister Leo Varadkar was, to be fair, always game – but the grin for the cameras was sometimes more of a grimace when he was requested to puck out or tog out for the media.

However, it looks as if the new duo in the department have no qualms at all about acting the maggot for a good cause – if the 10-gallon hat fits, they'll wear it without a scintilla of mortification.

And yesterday they were united in the Herculean task of turning a steer's ear into a silk purse. Early doors, it seemed as if Garth Brooks had finally, irrevocably ridden off into the Croker sunset, taking his ship of goodies with him and leaving a trail of wrecked plans behind him.

As soon as this sorry saga seemed set to scupper the Good Ship Garth, Failte Ireland sprang into action, hurriedly putting together a Country Music Festival to amuse the thousands of foreigners who bought tickets and booked hotel rooms and who still might come to Dublin and wander about with no gigs to go to.

The 'Dublin Goes Country' knees-up will see dozens of gigs happen in various venues around the capital over what was supposed to be the weekend of the Brooks bonanza in Croker, including a Bluegrass, Country and Roots Festival in Whelans of Wexford Street.

It's a valiant attempt to snatch some class of victory out of shambolic defeat – and it has the whole-hearted backing of the two new companeros, Paschal and Michael.

And so they both strolled over to Dame Lane for a photo-shoot with bales of hay, fetching cowboy hats and a variety of guitars and squeezeboxes.

"I should've worn a check shirt, I have loads of them," said Paschal, who was sporting (surprise) a blue shirt.

"Michael wondered if I'm on the country and western wing of Fine Gael – I guess he has his answer now," he added as he selected a hat.

But the pair part company when it comes to country musical tastes.

"I like Gillian Welch, the dark stuff," explained the Dublin Central deputy – henceforth to be known as the Broadstone Cowboy.

"I'm more a Michael Denver and Declan Nerney man," declared the Mayo Ticketmaster.

After they had fooled about for the photographers (who couldn't believe their luck), they chatted about why the department was backing the 'pop-up festival'. "It's for those people who had tickets booked for Garth Brooks, we want to give them a really good reason to still come to Ireland," explained Paschal.

Nor was he bothered by the fact that the festival is a far yodel from the multi-million-pound spectacular hoedown planned by the superstar.

"We're going to give them other reasons to visit our country," he added. "We've a whole new package of events."

And Michael echoed this call-to-arms. "I hope that people will come to Dublin anyway and there are many fine music venues around the country too," he added with an eye on his home stage.

They were both full of enthusiasm for the new wheeze (which won't require any contentious licences from the council, mercifully) and were also sunnily confident that The Broadstone Cowboy and Ticketmaster will make a decent double act.

"I had the great fun of sharing an office right beside Michael for many years and I can assure you that while we may be singing different tunes, we'll always be in harmony," smiled Paschal, as Michael guffawed in delight.

Hang on to your tall hats, folks. A new Chuckle Brothers has blown into town.

Irish Independent

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