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Enda is planning a presidential-style, 10-day trip to the United States, taking in Washington for St Patrick’s Day and heading off to the west coast for a whistle-stop tour and various trade missions that will keep him out of the country, but very much in the media, for the latter part of March Picture: Photocall

Enda is planning a presidential-style, 10-day trip to the United States, taking in Washington for St Patrick’s Day and heading off to the west coast for a whistle-stop tour and various trade missions that will keep him out of the country, but very much in the media, for the latter part of March Picture: Photocall

Enda is planning a presidential-style, 10-day trip to the United States, taking in Washington for St Patrick’s Day and heading off to the west coast for a whistle-stop tour and various trade missions that will keep him out of the country, but very much in the media, for the latter part of March Picture: Photocall

Fine Gael's leadership hopefuls who think Enda is going to do a quick lap of honour in Washington and hand the leadership on a plate to the over-anxious Leo or Simon may be in for something of a surprise.

Enda is planning a presidential-style, 10-day trip to the United States, taking in Washington for St Patrick's Day and heading off to the west coast for a whistle-stop tour and various trade missions that will keep him out of the country, but very much in the media, for the latter part of March.

His department is a bit coy about the arrangements, saying the "schedule hasn't been confirmed".

He then has important business in Brussels to sign off, with other EU prime ministers, on the draft negotiation strategy for Brexit.

Where is he going to find time in the middle of this busy schedule to tender his resignation as leader of Fine Gael?

Could it be aimed at leaving Leo and Simon floundering and maybe even give some party strategists time to strong-arm the impressive Paschal Donohoe into the two-horse race?

Paschal for Taoiseach and Enda for the Park, anyone?

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Talk is cheap, they say, but there's nothing cheap about long-serving broadcaster Marian Finucane. The gravelly voiced presenter, who is on air two days a week, has more than €1m in shareholders' funds in her company, Montrose Services, according to figures filed for 2016 last week.

The Kilteel, Co Kildare-based broadcaster has two companies - Montrose Productions and Montrose Services - of which she and her husband, John Clarke, are directors.

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While Montrose Productions has an annual deficit of just over €22,000, Montrose Services is in a state of rude health, with shareholder funds of €1,027,112 on its books, slightly up on last year. According to documents filed with the Company Registration Office last week, it has four employees, the directors are paid €20,293, and the wages bill comes to €97,917.

But can radio domination continue now that the queen of weekend broadcasting is about to face stiff competition with the return to the airwaves next month of the one-time politician and bookie Ivan Yates - who, we're told, is limbering up for his Sunday morning show which begins the first weekend in April? Let it be said - it should prove a most interesting duel.

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Hard to believe, but it's 10 years since Judging Dev, the Diarmaid Ferriter book on the founder of Fianna Fail that inspired a radio series, website, blog and a couple of free books for every school in the country.

Fellow historian Anthony J Jordan describes it as "the most successful marketing of a book in Irish publishing history" and after a series of Freedom of Information requests to the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), publishers of the book, he ascertained that it was no accidental bestseller.

The RIA, which he describes as "the State-subsidised academic institution" with an impressive HQ on Dawson Street, Dublin, "approached the project with military precision", drawing in UCD, RTE, the Department of Education and Science and the Department of An Taoiseach to perpetuate the legacy of Eamon de Valera.

The planning even came down email exchanges between Pauric Dempsey, of the RIA, and Sarah Martin, of RTE, on how Judging Dev should be promoted. "In terms of publicity, RTE's press office will aim to secure the following coverage - a boilerplate on the book, radio series and website mention... approach Morning Ireland... Hidden History documentary, Tubridy Show reassessment of De Valera... The Late Late Show to do a piece on De Valera in advance of radio series with Diarmaid Ferriter as key panellists."

They also fussily told RTE that the Tubridy Show listener was "not our core audience" and they wanted to be on Pat Kenny in the event of not getting The Late Late Show.

The Education History Support Service ran a conference for teachers (cost €8,000), two copies for every school (€60,000), plus a copy of a CD (€20,000) - which required a subvention to the RIA of €34,000.

Naturally enough, it was all a great success, with Mary Hanafin, then minister for education, on board, and Bertie Ahern launching the whole thing. It seems to Zozimus that these people should have been running the country, not a fusty academic institution.

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The list of casualties coming up to Cheltenham (March 14-17) is quite impressive, with Faugheen, Min, Thistlecrack, Annie Power and Don Cossack all declared as non-runners.

But just when you thought things couldn't get worse comes the news that the new Puritanism has spread to the famous Cotswold racecourse.

In an alarming development, the authorities have decided that because of anti-social behaviour at the course last year, punters won't be able to order more than four alcoholic drinks at a time, a ruling that is sure to cause consternation among the 17,000 or so Irish revellers at the Cotswold course.

Last year, the Irish spent €22m, but with rules like that there's bound to be a dip this year.

In the good old days, before it became as popular as it is today, many of the then-affluent Irish publicans would hold up the bar and boast that they "never saw a horse running". And certainly, the rounds were rarely confined to four alcoholic drinks.

So maybe now that the boom is back, it will be four bottles of champagne at a time - as it was during the recent Ireland vs Italy rugby match in Rome, when some of the nouveau rich even employed a properly dressed butler to keep the bubbly flowing.

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Has people power finally arrived in the Catholic Church?

One Sunday recently, the congregation in St Laurence O'Toole's church in Kilmacud, south Dublin, were sitting patiently in their seats as Mass time came and went without any sign of the priest.

Apparently, through some mix-up and with the scarcity of priests in the Dublin diocese, nobody had been assigned to say the Mass. No, the congregation didn't go home - they divvied up the jobs and held their own service, with various people reading the lessons, the Gospel and other bits of the liturgy that lay people are permitted to do.

In the end, they all went home happy- they might not have attended Mass, as such, but the liturgical feeling left the congregations satisfied and showed that religion doesn't always have to be the preserve of the priest.


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