Election 2020 outtakes: Absent Mary Lou comes out on top

Candidates try to avoid campaigns going up in smoke while country is king in Mayo

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

One clear winner emerged in the first televised face-off between Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin – and it was neither.

So says former government minister and Fianna Fáil matriarch Mary O'Rourke.

As others struggled to determine who came out on top in the Virgin Media toe-to-toe, O’Rourke told an RTÉ Radio One postmatch analysis: “I thought it was Mary Lou who won.”


Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has complained about being excluded from leaders' debates on both Virgin and RTÉ.

O’Rourke said McDonald “represents a major party and therefore a major amount of people” and urged RTÉ to reconsider its decision.

But on this veteran electoral observer’s logic, Sinn Féin might want to just let the two men at it.

Smoke and mirrors

Micheál Martin will be hoping his latest press briefing on the hustings isn’t a harbinger of his ambitions to lead the country – it went up in smoke.

The Fianna Fáil leader was canvassing around the streets of Dublin’s south inner city, when he stopped to talk to reporters by Fumbally Lane.

Just as he was ruling out any grand alliance with Fine Gael, a large plume of smoke belched out of a vent in the wall of an old stone building directly behind him.

“Was that Leo?” he quipped, referring to the Taoiseach’s admission that he toked spliffs in his younger years. So, there really will be no joint administration.

An awkward question

Fine Gael’s Kate O’Connell told Newstalk she “smoked some cannabis” when at university but said she had “never taken a chemical synthetic drug”.

As a pharmacist, she “fully understands the difficulties but also the safety aspect,” she added.

The Green Party’s Pippa Hackett said she smoked cannabis while at college and Sinn Féin’s health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly also confessed to using it in the past.


You know I'm conscious that I'm the Taoiseach... to a certain extent, I'm a little bit of a role model

– Varadkar declines to detail what type of illegal drugs he may have taken in the past.

Number: 11

The number of constituencies in which businessman Seán O’Leary, from Kerry Pike in Cork, has declared as a general election candidate. The total deposit to register in the five Dublin constituencies, five Cork constituencies as well as one in Kerry comes to €5,500.

Poster pain

Fine Gael's Michelle Mulherin has inadvertently reported her director of elections to the gardaí, it appears.

After 40 of her posters were removed in Kilkelly near Knock, Co Mayo, this week, the Senator called in the cops.

But Tom Garvey, the law and order party’s electoral director in the county, told Midwest Radio that the posters were lawfully removed on his instruction.

Significant analysis had gone into carving up the constituency between the party’s three candidates in an attempt to maximise votes, and posters could only be erected in each candidate’s “internally agreed” areas, he said.

Mayo puts country before all else

Fears abounded in former taoiseach Enda Kenny’s heartland that the election count would scupper a hooley at Castlebar’s Royal Theatre.

Midwest Radio’s sold-out Night with the Stars – featuring Mike Denver, Declan Nerney and Dominick Kirwan – has been long billed for February 10th.

With the count starting in the same venue the day before, a sweat was on as to whether it would be concluded in time for the big show.

Management was forced to issue a statement to The Connaught Telegraph reassuring fans that contingencies are in place. The returning officer agreed to move the count to another room if it lasts into Monday evening.