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While the FG ladies lunch, Enda's fare is humble pie

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Fionnuala Kenny, pictured before a Fine Gael lunch at the four seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge yesterday

Fionnuala Kenny, pictured before a Fine Gael lunch at the four seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge yesterday

Seantor Imelda Henry, left, and Mary Mitchell O'Connor, TD, pictured before a Fine Gael lunch at the four seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge

Seantor Imelda Henry, left, and Mary Mitchell O'Connor, TD, pictured before a Fine Gael lunch at the four seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge

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Fionnuala Kenny, pictured before a Fine Gael lunch at the four seasons Hotel in Ballsbridge yesterday

A LARGE gathering of Fine Gael folk arriving at a venue with not a single water charges protester in the vicinity to impolitely greet them, is something of a rare sight in these turbulent times.

A lone garda was loitering with intent at the entrance to the Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin, but he found himself with nothing to do except try and keep out of the rain.

But then this was the most genteel of occasions - the Fine Gael Ladies Lunch. It's an annual fundraising event hosted by the Taoiseach's wife Fionnuala Kenny, which is attended by party supporters and members of the Oireachtas. This year's €100-a-head bash was attended by about 300 women, including a group which had flown in from the UK for the occasion.

However, not even this lunch was entirely devoid of controversy. Rumours had circulated beforehand that some party members, disgruntled over Fine Gael's botched handling of the Seanad by-election nomination, were set to boycott the bunfight this year. However, in contrast to the persistent water protests, this fracas seems to have subsided.

Fine Gael councillor Kate O'Connell, who had previously stated that the nomination of a male candidate (John McNulty) to replace a female Oireachtas member (Deirdre Clune) was "sending the wrong signal" about the party, popped up on 'Morning Ireland' this week, backing the Ladies Lunch. "I see it as a networking event, where I get to meet people," she said. However, there were no signs of disgruntlement among the guests arriving for the event. Unlike previous years, the lunch was closed to the media - the organisers wary perhaps of reports of Fine Gael fine dining whilst the public mood is so sour. But according to one insider, the mood amongst the guests was "upbeat". She said, "Mary Mitchell O'Connor who was MC for the afternoon, got a great reception to her speech at the lunch."

The Dun Laoghaire TD also paid tribute to Fionnuala Kenny, describing the Taoiseach's wife as "the Queen of Cope - whether she gets accosted by someone in the supermarket giving out about the Government, or reads hostile coverage of her husband and of his party, she stays tough".

Among the Oireachtas members at the event were Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, TDs Regina Doherty and Senator Imelda Henry and Olivia Mitchell.

Frances Fitzgerald arrived at the Four Seasons directly from a meeting with the North's justice minister, David Ford MLA. "We discussed a range of subjects, including issues such as the movement of sex abusers across the border," she said. The minister added that the lunch was an opportunity to meet with supporters. "It's a really good event, and I'm here every year."

Her boss the Taoiseach was instead in Cork, where a water charges protest was in situ at one of his engagements.

But he would have probably been too full to eat much anyway, having already partaken this week of several large slices of that dreaded political fare, humble pie...

Irish Independent