Subscriber OnlyPoliticsMiriam Lord's Week

Miriam Lord: AI Paschal vs TikTok Ava offers a portal into modern manners

Minister made deepfake photos of himself to highlight issue of identity theft, but got caught in a transatlantic spat over rude behaviour at the Portal

That’s Paschal’s posters sorted for the next election. (He swears he is going to stand again in Dublin Central.)

And well done to the people at this week’s European Anti-Financial Crime Summit for coming up with a publicity wheeze guaranteed to pull in more than a few column inches for their conference in the RDS.

Among the issues discussed was the growing problem of identity fraud and how to combat it.

The Minister for Public Expenditure, wearing his president of the Eurogroup hat, officially opened the event on Thursday morning.


Paschal Donohoe agreed to be the guinea pig for some artificially generated “action” photos to show delegates the level of sophistication that professional fraudsters have reached.

Colum Lyons, founder and chief executive of ID-Pal, a company that helps businesses verify customer identity, presented images of Paschal skydiving, scuba-diving, kayaking and bursting with brawny intent from a rugby tackle. There were also shots of Alpine Paschal hiking and Gangster Paschal swaggering.

The mild-mannered Minister posted a selection on social media to warn people about “the dangers of identity fraud, which is a very serious issue, as these FRAUDULENT images show” and not because he was absolutely thrilled with the results.

At the start of the conference, where speakers included Derville Rowland, deputy governor at the Central Bank of Ireland, and Justin Kelly, Assistant Garda Commissioner for organised and serious crime, delegates were shown a welcome video featuring the Eurogroup president, deepfake dimples and all.

AI Paschal addressed the audience, saying it was wonderful to see so many people in attendance as the subject was of huge importance to the business and financial sector. He then announced he was speaking to them from South Korea and delivered the rest of his speech in Korean.

One observer described it as “gas but terrifying”.

But at least it made a change from the usual double Dutch.

When he arrived at the RDS, the Minister was still smarting after being told off by a New York-based TikTok influencer and OnlyFans model for saying that people who behaved inappropriately at the live webcam portal between Dublin and New York “let us all down”.

Ava Louise was one of those art lovers who forced the temporary shutdown of the installations in Manhattan and opposite the Spire on O’Connell Street. Or as the Irish Sun put it: “Pent-up portal boob flasher has fired a bazooka at Paschal Donohoe after he blasted live-stream conduct.”

In an exclusive interview, the “busty American beauty” mounted a passionate defence of her antics and called for the portal to be turned back on to allow people have some fun.

“He really should enjoy himself, chill out ... I’ll go back to show him fun. I’ll show him my Big Apples.”

We hear apples have been mysteriously appearing on the Minister’s desk over the last couple of days. That explains it.

Owl sins

Hannah Hamilton, special adviser to Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcolm Noonan, has more than just one Minister to look after these days.

When she isn’t in Leinster House, Hannah is at home in Kilkenny keeping a close eye on her growing brood of owlets.

Malcolm’s right-hand woman has had a long-time interest in “a small nature conservation project” on the banks of the river Nore. Ten years ago she put up a nest box and a pair of barn owls – Late Late Show owls – took up residence and have been having lot of babies ever since.

This is a marvellous because they are a critically endangered bird.

Last year Hannah upgraded their home and it came with an inbuilt camera.

“For the first time I was able to watch them laying eggs and then see the babies hatching and growing. It’s been amazing. I have it on my phone and now I can check in on their progress from Leinster House,” she tells us.

Thing is, the collective name for a group of owls is “a parliament”, which is very appropriate under the circumstances.

As a result, the Dáil ushers – one of them, Paul Smith, is a keen birder – have now become very invested in the new arrivals and are trying to come up with names for them. There are five babies now, with three eggs still to hatch. Owls lay eggs at intervals so owlets arrive in dribs and drabs.

Daddy owl since the beginning is George Clinton – named after the American funkster behind the 1970s music collective Parliament-Funkadelic. Mammy was always thought to be Francey but when the camera was installed Hannah realised Francey was gone and George had moved in a new bird.

She was surprised because, as a general rule, barn owls are supposed to be monogamous. But it seems gorgeous George has a roving eye in his rotating head.

Jolene was the new squeeze.

“They came in this spring for the breeding season and I was looking at the female and I suddenly thought: she doesn’t have a tag. Jolene has a tag. And then we realised it’s another woman and I’m like: George, what are you up to?”

The new one is Alice.

Hannah posts content from within the owl box on her Too-witter account (sorry). It’s under the hashtag LoveOwland. “Because there’s a lot of drama.”

At the moment the owlets “look like little aliens” because they have no fur or feathers. In a week or two they get fluffy and cute and after about a month they get curious and start looking out of the hole, eventually venturing out on to the veranda to practice their flapping before learning to fly.

Then philandering George and his latest floozy teach them how to hunt and off they go.

Back in the picture

Good to see everything is rosy again in Louth Fine Gael after the heir apparent in the constituency put the sitting TD’s nose out of joint by not including him in Tuesday’s PR photo round-up of their local election candidates handing in their nomination papers in Dundalk.

A beaming Senator John McGahon was pictured with each of the council hopefuls as they signed their papers. Also in the frame was former senator Jim D’Arcy, who is also from Dundalk.

Local man John quickly put the 10 pictures up on his Facebook page.

“Busy morning in Louth County Council where all of our Fine Gael candidates for the upcoming election were officially nominated for the June 7th local elections,” he declared, namechecking all the candidates in the Wee County’s five electoral areas.

But Senator McGahon’s happy burblings were burst by this terse and rather forlorn response from deputy Fergus O’Dowd, the party’s long-serving TD for Louth, who is based in Drogheda.

“Sorry I was not present, I would have been happy to attend, I am saddened by this exclusion.”

Poor Fergus. That wasn’t a very nice thing to do.

Ejiro O’Hare-Stratton, who is standing in the Drogheda Urban area, rushed to comfort him, nurse’s training to the fore.

“I understand how you feel. It’s disappointing to think you could have joined if you had known about the event, especially given the fact that you are the sitting TD for Louth/East Meath constituency. It’s only fair that you should have been invited too.”

Not a word from John.

Of course, Fergus is retiring from national politics and will not be running in the next general election. So maybe John forgot about him. But then, Jim D’Arcy hasn’t been in the Seanad since 2016, although taoiseach Leo Varadkar appointed him as his adviser on Northern Ireland and border issues in 2017.

And they are from the north of the constituency, whereas Fergus is based at the other end, in Drogheda. But John might need Fergus when the time comes for him to hand in his nomination papers and go looking for votes.

By Thursday the smiling Senator remembered to include him in the photos after a “busy morning in Drogheda alongside Fergus O’Dowd TD and two of our fantastic candidates in Drogheda Urban”.

Hopefully Senator McGahon’was able to find his way back to Dundalk without getting lost.

Aontú’s armada

As election slogans go, the one from Aontú’s candidate in Ireland South is a cracker. He is photographed against a background of warships on the high seas. Vote for Patrick Murphy, says the poster. “The man who negotiated the Russian withdrawal from Irish waters.”

That’s some boast.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín is delighted with his catch. Fisherman and mussel grower Patrick met ambassador Yuri Filatov when the Russian fleet planned dangerous naval exercises off the Cork coast in 2022 and persuaded Moscow to withdraw the fleet from Irish waters.

The Ballydehob father of four was part of a group of fishermen who told the Russians that they would carry on fishing in the midst of their naval activities.

“As a gesture of goodwill” Moscow announced the exercises would be moved after appeals from the fishing community and the Irish Government.

When the fishing industry representative was selected to run last year, Peadar Tióbín rather grandly declared: “Patrick came to international prominence as part of a group of fishermen who dared to challenge the flotilla of Russian warships testing missiles off the southwest coast of Ireland. Similarly Aontú is a small new movement taking on the political establishment.”

Of course, then minister for foreign affairs Simon Coveney would say his department and officials played a pivotal role in turning back the battleships while rear admiral Senator Gerard Craughwell would also claim credit for threatening to launch a small armada from the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Defence to put the frighteners on Putin.

Hanafin hits 30

After 30 unbroken years in national and local politics, former government minister and recent cathaoirleach of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council Mary Hanafin left the political stage this week after completing her final term on the council.

She was appointed government chief whip in 2002 and minister for education in 2004 by Bertie Ahern and went on to hold a number of senior portfolios in Brian Cowen’s administration.

She lost her seat in Dún Laoghaire, one of the casualties of Fianna Fáil’s 2011 electoral meltdown.

Having spent most of her political career on her feet and talking, the former deputy leader of Fianna Fáil is not retiring just yet. She qualified for the bar earlier this year and will be taking her skills to the Four Courts for a new phase in her working life.