Friday 24 May 2019

It's all Christmas trees and catwalks for this Dáil's final festive hurrah

Leo Varadkar on the catwalk at the Oireachtas Christmas Charity Fashion Show in the Shelbourne Hotel last night
Leo Varadkar on the catwalk at the Oireachtas Christmas Charity Fashion Show in the Shelbourne Hotel last night
Helen McEntee TD at the Oireachtas Christmas Charity Fashion Show in aid of Research Motor Neurone in the Shelbourne Hotel. Picture: Arthur Carron
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton at the switching-on of the Christmas tree lights at Leinster House. Photo: Arthur Carron

Lise Hand

There isn't much harmony in Leinster House these days, what with everyone practising their pot shots at each other in the pre-election phony war.

Nor is there much harmony outside it, either, given the number of homes and businesses awash with flood water and the number of citizens awash with indignation over Loadsofmoneygate following RTÉ's exposé.

But for a brief, lovely interlude yesterday evening, harmony was breaking out all over the Leinster House lawn.

It was the Ceann Comhairle's annual switching-on of the Christmas tree lights ceremony, and even warring politicians ceased hostilities to stand together and enjoy the talented young Holy Family choir from Derry.

Enda Kenny, Joan Burton (in a suitably festive red coat), Micheál Martin and Gerry Adams were at their angelic best as the tuneful seven to 11-year-olds belted out every politician's favourite election song ('You Raise Me Up').

There was even a cordial word or two exchanged between the Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil leader as Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett pressed the button to switch on the lights. (One suspects that the Tánaiste must've bunged someone in charge a few scoots, as the tree lit up in predominantly Labour Party red. Or perhaps it was Cork Red, if Micheál had his way).

This annual ceremony didn't take place last December - it was cancelled as a mark of respect to Johnathan Corrie, who died while sleeping rough across the road from Leinster House. But yesterday the mood was one of wary festivity among members of the Dáil - all they're getting for Christmas this year is a pile of posters and a pair of stout canvassing shoes.

And in fairness to one group of TDs and senators, they took some time off the campaign trail last night to take part in a charity fashion show in the Shelbourne Hotel in aid of Motor Neurone Disease research - the illness which took the life of their colleague Fine Gael TD Nicky McFadden last year.

Event organiser Diaspora Minister Jimmy Deenihan paid tribute to the two dozen politicians braving the catwalk. "Their jobs are on the line, there's a frenzy in Dáil Eireann but all of them are here because of their affection and love for Nicky," he told the audience before the show began.

And fair play to them. A self-conscious gang of them walked the ramp to running commentary from stylist and co-organiser Marieta Doran, including TDs Michelle Mulherin, Regina Doherty, Martin Heydon and Helen McEntee, and Senators Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (modelling a fetching red geansaí and Santa hat), Averil Power, Hildegarde Naughton and Catherine Noone.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar, on the other hand, looked quite at home on the catwalk, even managing a twirl without falling off and earning himself a cheer.

Perhaps he had gleaned a few tips from Paul Galvin beforehand during their chinwag - the Kerry star being a dab hand at the fashion game.

Nicky's sister Gabrielle McFadden, who won the by-election in Longford-Westmeath, encouraged the audience to contribute to the charity. "If you're asked for a few bob, dig deep," she requested.

It was probably one of the rare times that a politician could ask for a donation, and everyone was happy to oblige.

Irish Independent

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