Thursday 12 December 2019

New minister Joe mustn't put a word out of place

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar TD, Mary Lou McDonald TD and Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin TD, during their visit to the MacGill Summer School.
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar TD, Mary Lou McDonald TD and Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin TD, during their visit to the MacGill Summer School.

LYING close as it does to the Donegal Gaeltacht, there was much tut-tutting at MacGill over the fact that the new junior minister for all things Gaeilge, Joe McHugh, isn't fluent in the native lingo.

Bravely, Letterkenny-based Joe (pictured) fetched up in Glenties on Wednesday to discuss the matter on Sean O'Rourke's show which was broadcasting from the Highlands Hotel, the venue for the summer school.

"I'm at the start of my journey towards improving it, and while the language is obviously the talking-point, it's the Gaeltacht portfolio that I'm fully immersing myself in," he explained.

And the new minister does have one local ally. In his column in the 'Donegal Democrat' on Thursday, writer Frank Galligan had a tongue-in-cheek point to make. "What qualified Haughey for Health . . . he knew a glass of red wine a day was good for him? How many Ministers for Agriculture could cut turf or sneed turnips?" he asked, adding that if Joe had been born Josephine, "Enda wouldn't look crooked at him".

An-fior ar fad . . .


MANY of the local folk were struck last week at the numbers of gardai patrolling the vicinity of the Highlands Hotel to mind the august personages of various speakers such as the Tanaiste on Monday – and of course the bosses of the force, the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and acting Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan on Tuesday. "I even nipped home for a shave," confided one of the very tidy coppers on duty at the venue that day.

But cutbacks in rural stations has seen a reduction in the number of gardai on duty in the vicinity, and residents of this most hospitable of Donegal villages are worried about an increase in break-ins.

It wasn't always thus. The most famous crime committed in Glenties occurred in 1998 when a Belfast lad who was drinking in one of the pubs ran out of cash. He promptly nipped into the nearby supermarket, stole a cucumber and a black bin-liner and staged a stick-up (or vegetable-up) in the village bank, brandishing the cucumber like a concealed weapon.

He left with a haul of £100 but instead of making good his escape, he simply returned to the bar and got the beers in. When he was (unsurprisingly) nicked on the premises a short while later, he had a mere 60 scoots left.

There is even a song written about the bonkers raid, penned by local legend Leo McLoone. Mighty.


WHILE most of the panel discussions at MacGill are long on wind and short on humour, there were a few laughs to be had on Wednesday night courtesy of a bit of knockabout from the unlikely trio of Fianna Fail's Micheal Martin, Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald and brand new Health Minister Leo Varadkar.

Having discussed the weighty topic du jour, 'How to Restore Trust Between Governors and Governed?' and delivered the obligatory skelps to each others' parties, this particular troika were more chilled during the subsequent questions-and-answers session.

Moderator Sean O'Rourke decided to lighten the mood with a 'Political Blind Date' sort of coalition question, so he asked Mary Lou – who was sitting in between Leo and Micheal – which of them she would chose to be her Tanaiste.

But she's too canny to fall for even a frivolous version of that enquiry, and zinged back that as far as she was concerned, there's little difference between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael policies. "I think there's a sense that the two gentlemen should kiss and make up, as the Civil War is over," she declared, to the amusement of everyone bar the two gentlemen.

But the lads rallied. Micheal joked: "It's not about who you get into bed with, but what you do when you get into power," before prudently adding that he'd be wiser not to pursue that line of metaphor. Indeed.

Leo got busy on his mobile, and announced in less-than delighted tones that the Paddy Power website was offering very short odds of 5/4 that Fine Gael would be in coalition next time around – with Fianna Fail.

The minister was also asked what he regarded as the biggest mistake of his career, and responded: "Probably the heave. I made the wrong call on that for sure".


But as long as his biggest mistake doesn't turn out to be agreeing to tackle Angola, he'll be grand.

Irish Independent

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