Wednesday 22 May 2019

Man about town keeps it cool in Macroom

Maria Herlihy

There was a shot of selfie mania in Macroom on Friday as An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar went on a stroll  just after 4pm as traffic was hotting up and grinding to a halt.

Leading the posse was home grown hero Minister Michael Creed, who was well capable of literally introducing the whole town to An Taoiseach by the inhabitant's first names, surnames and maybe even, if pressed their, star sign.   

After leaving the Castle Hotel in Macroom, Leo strode and smiled and popped his head in and out of shops and stopped people on the street to shoot the breeze, which was thankfully at hand to keep everyone in fine fettle.  

Mary O'Rourke gave him a wholesome cead mile failte and from behind her back a man passed with a child up his arms and he shouted out "keep it going. You are doing a mighty job. I didn't know what was going on as there's no mart on today. There's a savage crowd around".  

A quick pit stop was at father and son business duo, Noel and Frank Twomey in the square. Someone quickly grabbed a shovel from outside the hardware store for a photo op while a passer by couldn't resist the irony and bellowed - "Don't forget your shovel."

Christy Moore would have been proud.  Cars pulled up outside Twomey's and motorists rolled down the windows and were slightly agog that they had seemingly come into town for a bit of shopping and found themselves wild eyed looking at An Taoiseach leaning in their window asking them how they were.   

A mother in a car turned to three children safely strapped in the back and despite not uttering a word her eyes said it all - 'Wave to An Taoiseach'. They followed orders. And drove off with the pre-requisite selfies safely in the bag. 

A trip to Macroom wouldn't be complete without going into Lynch's Bakery, where owners Humphrey and his wife Pat welcomed An Taoiseach. Inside were two punters who were sipping on their hot tea to cool down.  Leo chatted to the men while outside a man leaned against a car and made a call while discreetly hollering down the phone within ear shot of An Taoiseach's inner crew.  

"I'm here in Macroom and guess who is here but An Taoiseach. He's inside in Lynch's. That's right, the bakery. No, I'm not joking. His socks - I don't know a thing about his socks," screeched the man as he rested on the bonnet of the car and craned his neck like an elegant swan through the bakery window for a better galk. 

By now, despite the cool and beautiful breezy conditions in Macroom, An Taoiseach opted for a gelato or, in this proud Gaeltacht region - uachtar reoite.  He went for the mint and chocolate option and began licking it with gusto while easily chatting to anyone at all who popped in and out of Lynch's bakery.  

There were more photo ops and none more proud than Rita Twomey, whose birthday fell that very day. "She is your biggest fan," cooed Paula Twomey. "You are doing a great job," said Paula while nodding all the time at An Taoiseach. He nodded and smiled in return.  Rita looked as proud as punch as she got her photo taken. When asked by this reporter how big was her birthday, she left out a loud laugh and said: "You can write down 21 ... plus the vat." 

Eileen Forde from Lahern Cross also got her photo taken but quickly pointed out to An Taoiseach that she had met him before in Kanturk about three or four years ago.  "I haven't been to Kanturk for a while now," said Leo in return.  "He is a very intelligent man and he is doing very well and the polls are looking great for him," said Eileen to this reporter, and she also  pointed out that her surname took an 'e' as otherwise she could be associated with Henry Ford the millionaire car manufacturer.  More laughter all round. 

Two teenage girls began to giggle and followed the herd and one dared the other to go up to Leo and "get his autograph."  

"Are you crazy. Sure I can't. He's eating that ice-cream and, anyway, how would he sign his name with the ice-cream?" she said to her friend matter of factly.  It was then onto the council offices at Macroom where Leo looked at all the wooden signatures of each chairperson over the last number of years adjourning the council chambers wall. 

Outside, another mother stopped and her mouth dropped open. She said to her children - "Lads, do ye want ye're photo taken?" They nodded in the negative as they didn't know what all the fuss was about. "Lads," she pleaded while leaning downwards and hissed,  "Are ye fecking sure ye don't?" This time they relented. Anything to keep mammy happy. 

Strolling onwards and with a smile, Leo spotted the office of Fianna Fail deputy Aindrias Moynihan. "Will he go in?" wondered one man. He no sooner said the words but in strolled An Taoiseach. Luckily enough by this time he had the mint and chocolate ice cream well savaged. 

Aindrias was at home and while he shared pleasantries with An Taoiseach two photographers entered for a possible photo. "No photos please" said Aindrias and the two photographers duly acquiescenced to the request. 

Still, they got pictures of Leo at Aindrias Moynihan's front  door where he seemed to hover. Leo's grin began to get wider as each snap was taken.  

It was then time to stroll back to the Castle Hotel where everyone had set off from. In case Leo thought he was going to get another round of Lynch's ice cream, this time he had to work the floor where more photographs were required. The room filled up with people from not just Macroom but throughout Duhallow.  

Despite the soaring temperature of the room with so many people, Leo took the time to chat and mingle with the crowd and there was yet more selfies taken.  Two hours after he had first set off on his walkabout he was just about done. 

But really not quite, he was then off to Banteer to the famed farm of Frank Murphy for an interactive social media question and answer forum with Minister Creed and MEP Mairead McGuinness.  There mightn't be an ice cream in sight but instead they could all be guaranteed of quality bullocks.