Miriam Lord: Eamon Ryan basks in the sunshine of Seanad’s love

Response to Green leader’s climate change speech has him blushing under his mask

“I was slightly blushing behind my mask at some of the compliments,” declared Eamon Ryan on Wednesday after his speech to the Upper House on climate change received a globally warm reception.

Senators were falling over each other to praise the quality of his contribution – his passion, “amazing enthusiasm”, knowledge and understanding, earnestness, sincerity...

“I genuinely enjoy it when this Minister comes into this house,” gushed Fine Gael’s John McGahon . “He is very much on top of his brief.”

“Please continue to be ambitious,” entreated Fianna Fáil’s Malcolm Byrne.


It’s exactly this sort of nice, polite carry-on which gives the Seanad a bad name.

“Are you feeling the love, Minister?” enquired Fiona O’Loughlin (FF), in a tone not entirely in keeping with the ongoing beatification process.

Ryan spoke without a script for 20 minutes.

Alice-Mary Higgins wondered if copies of the speech were available, drawing an immediate and loud response from the speaker.

“Ha ha!”

“The Minister, I think, was ad-libbing,” interpreted the Cathaoirleach, Mark Daly.

“Press rewind,” giggled Eamon.

Róisín Garvey, the Green Senator from Clare, was highly amused by the thought of her party leader arriving with a fully prepared speech, never mind extra copies to hand around. “It’ll be online in an hour,” she told Alice-Mary.

Another Clare-based Senator, Fine Gael's Martin Conway, thanked the Minister for opening the National Council for the Blind's pop-up charity shop on Grafton Street.

“I asked him to do it and Eamon, being the gentleman he is, absolutely agreed,” said Martin, who is visually impaired. He pointed out that charity shops “in their essence” are environmentally friendly. “You can’t get better in terms of recycling than charity shops.”

Suddenly Eamon was compelled to intervene. He felt in the interest of “openness and transparency” that he had to ’fess up to his actions in the pop-up shop.

“Yes, I did get my wife a very good... a very lovely jacket for €20 on the occasion, which she’s thrilled about. It’s at the bottom of Grafton Street. It’s open for the month. Get in there!”

“I saw it,” cried Fianna Fáil’s Mary Fitzpatrick, not clarifying whether she meant the jacket or the shop.

“It’s always tricky for a gentleman to buy for his wife, or for any woman,” remarked Fiona O’Loughlin.

“It wasn’t tricky on this occasion,” boasted the Minister for the Environment, delighted with himself and his ability to spot a fashion gem on the crowded rails.

Senator Conway was certainly impressed, reminding Senators – if they hadn't heard him say it the first time – that the leader of the Greens is a total gent.

“Eamon, being the absolute gentleman he is, actually bought something in the shop, which I wasn’t going to mention because a lot of Ministers would turn up and do an event and go, but Eamon actually bought in the shop. I think that was very well noted and it’s a testament to the man we are talking about.”

What’s seldom is wonderful.

Bacik’s big day sticks to the guidelines

Congratulations to Labour senator Ivana Bacik, who married her longtime partner Alan Saul just over a week ago at a ceremony in the Dublin Registry Office on Grand Canal Street.

Labour’s leader in the Seanad kept her plans a secret from colleagues in the Upper House in the run-up to her big day. Friday December 4th saw her tweeting about the “disappointing news” that two venerable Dublin nighttime venues, The Globe and Rí-Rá, are set close. “I have grave concerns about the closure of cultural and recreational areas in Dublin City to facilitate the expansion/construction of hotels,” she wrote.

As outgoing IWLA Woman Lawyer of the Year, she also had time to tweet details of this year’s ceremony on December 16th. It’ll be a virtual bash, with the legal eagle guests encouraged to wear Zoomtastic glam at home for the annual gala event.

This year's legal women are so good they've had to mint two awards. Ivana will present gongs to joint winners Michele O'Boyle, outgoing president of the Law Society of Ireland, and Maura McNally SC, who was elected chair of the Bar Council of Ireland in July. This year is the first time both sides of the profession have had women at the helm.

McNally, who hails proudly from Dromod in Leitrim, is the second female chair of the Irish bar and follows in the footsteps of the late Ms Justice Mella Carroll. It only took 41 years for the next woman to win the job.

But back to Ivana and Alan, who have two daughters and have been sweethearts for 30 years. They were “given away” at the ceremony by their respective mammies and then the small family group repaired to Lock’s restaurant in Portobello, where the newly married couple live, for a celebration meal. Numbers, we hear, were well within the Level 5 requirements set down for wedding receptions.

"It was a lovely day," said the bride, the only radiant thing about Leinster House this week.

New women’s caucus chair gets down to business

Fianna Fáil Senator Fiona O'Loughlin has taken over as chair of the Oireachtas Irish Women's Parliamentary Caucus from the Greens' deputy leader and Minister for the Arts Catherine Martin. The parliamentary group recently held its first meeting since the formation of the new Dáil and Seanad, and plans are in train for an agm in the new year.

Membership is open to all female Oireachtas members on an opt-out basis, with former members also encouraged to participate. The caucus was founded in 2017 as a cross-party forum to discuss and campaign on issues predominantly affecting women.

This time the meetings will be on more formal footing, with an undertaking under Oireachtas reform in the Programme for Government to “support the work of the Oireachtas Irish Women’s Parliamentary Caucus”.

The Taoiseach has already agreed to meetings to discuss issues identified by the group.

One interesting sidebar is the occasionally frosty relationship between O'Loughlin, who lost her seat in Kildare South this year, and her erstwhile Fianna Fáil constituency rival, now Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl.

They will have to eyeball each other now across the table to agree on Dáil arrangements involving the caucus around such things as speaking time and putting forward motions.

They’ll get along famously.

Keeping up to speed on FG parliamentary party Zoom meetings

Richard Bruton is settling nicely into his new role as chairman of the Fine Gael parliamentary party.

He has resumed the practice (started by his predecessor Martin Heydon) of issuing a bulletin to political correspondents after the weekly party meeting.

It’s the sanitised highlights of what the troops and their leader discuss during their Zoom moanfests.

Naturally, this bears little relation to the authentic version dolloped out in real time to the voracious hacks as a result of unrestrained leaking from inside the room. But it’s helpful for filling in the gaps between the meaty bits blabbed before Richard’s earnest email lands.

Heydon, who is Minister of State for Research & Development, Farm Safety and New Market Development, figured in the proceedings recently when Bruton congratulated the TD for Kildare South and his wife Bríanne on the birth of their fourth child, Juliet.

Juliet is three weeks old today and her three big brothers Martin D (6), Pádraic (4) and John (2) are delighted with their new sister. Bríanne is also happy to see some gender balance coming back into the house.

Nothing negative about the Ferriter imprimatur

Nothing cheers the hearts of authors of books about politics or history like a negative review from Diarmaid Ferriter – it’s a great boost for sales.

In the past, scathing reviews by Ferriter sent Des O’Malley’s memoir to the top of the bestseller list and helped veteran author Tim Pat Coogan shift a pile of copies of 1916: The Mornings After. The latest beneficiaries of the Ferriter Effect are Stephen Collins and Ciara Meehan, whose history of Fine Gael, Saving the State, has almost sold out following a rather tetchy review from the historian in this newspaper. The pair must have been delighted, even if historians are even more thin-skinned than politicians and journalists.

Mind you, a raft of positive reviews from political experts in other publications probably had something to do with it as well. The book's publishers, Gill, have ordered a reprint, so it should be back in the shops in the days running up to Christmas.

So there should be plenty of time for Sinn Féin’s students of history to bag a copy for their festive reading.

Tipperary’s Martin Browne, the latest Shinner to fall foul of his party’s Tweet First and Apologise Later policy, will not be buying the book. He received a publicity flyer sent to Oireachtas members on November 3rd and duly tweeted a photo of it with the message: “Got this in the post this morning, I’ve better things to be doing with 25€. Maybe they should have held off for another bit, things could be different this evening. #LeoTheLeak.”

This was a reference to the Tánaiste's expected Dáil statement later that day to address pressing questions raised by Village magazine about his passing on of a confidential Government document on a deal negotiated with the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) to a friend who was president of a rival GP group.

Varadkar made his statement on the first Dáil sitting day following the weekend publication of the story.

Sinn Féin deputy for Laois-Offaly Brian Stanley is due to make a statement in the Dáil in the coming days, having taken a week out amid calls for him to address the House to explain two highly offensive tweets he sent while a more low-profile TD.

Martin Browne’s offence falls into the more daft end of social media stupidity (a cross-party affliction) when it emerged he retweeted 9/11 conspiracy theory hokum.

However, there are also calls for him to come into the Dáil to explain his reaction on Tipp FM to the Stanley controversy when he said Sinn Féin should stop apologising for linking the activities of the Provisional IRA with the War of Independence.

Martin has since apologised for telling his fellow Shinners to stop apologising.